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13 Conflict Resolution and Problem Solving

Chapter 13 Check-in:

  • Identify Conflict Causes and Effects
  • Explore Conflict Approaches Solutions
  • Basic Problem Solving Strategy PDCA

Like all communication, good conflict management and resolution requires your time: listen, reflect, and consider all elements of a situation and the people involved.  It is not a simple process and there are some steps to help you navigate the process.  In the end, it is about the relationship.

Frequently considered a negative, conflict can actually be an opportunity for growth in relationship or work.  Your attitude towards the situation and person plays a role in any outcome.  Adam Grant, Professor of Psychology at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and Saul P. Steinberg Professor of Management, notes that “The absence of conflict is not harmony, it’s apathy.  If you are in a group where people never disagree, the only way that could ever really happen is if the people don’t care enough to speak their minds.” (Grant, February 2021).

However, it is easy to feel at a loss in an immediate conflict situation.  Here are some brief points to consider when faced with more than just a disagreement.

Conflict is emotional: it is much greater than a difference of opinions.  It is usually an expression of not being heard, seen, valued or respected.   It is based on a deeply person need and emotional response, based on perceptions which have identified a threat in any form.  If conflict is ignored, it can fester and result in such entrenched opinions and sides that resolution appears impossible (Segal et al, 2020).

The first step is to determine what the actual problem is as perceived by all parties.  The Conflict Tree analogy is especially useful if you respond well to visuals (O’Connor, 2020).  It is an excellent activity for a group or individual to clarify the effects (branches), core problems (trunk), and even causes of the issue (roots).

Once the actual problem is identified, you can move on to tackling a resolution together.

Approaches to Conflict

There are generally five styles for approaching conflict (Benoliel, 2017) and understanding what they are and what style you lean towards, identifies how you will move through the process.  These categories are determined by whether the focus is on the relationship or the end goal of a task/project.  While these may be more specific to workplace conflicts, they certainly identify personal conflict responses as well.

Collaboration is marked by a balanced focus on the relationship with others and meeting long-term objectives.  A Competition style is marked by individuals who are assertive and probably uncooperative who demonstrate that their priority is the outcome of the project more than the relationships.  Although few people enjoy conflict, the Avoidance style focuses on the the immediate unpleasantness and therefore avoids the issues.  This traditionally marks individuals who are unassertive and uncooperative largely because they assume it is safer to ignore than face an issue.  Sometimes there are individuals who will do anything to please others: this Accommodation approach results in self-sacrifice and is usually the route taken by those who care more about the relationship than the outcome.  Unfortunately, they are frequently taken advantage of in their efforts to please others.  Lastly, there are those who prefer the Compromise strategy. This may seem expedient in the attempt to resolve the problem by aiming for mutually acceptable terms and concessions, it does frequently leaves no one side satisfied even though it allows most to maintain an assertive and cooperative stance.

Strategies for Solutions

Sometimes those involved in conflict turn to an third person for assistance to resolve a conflict.  A mediator can listen to the perspectives of those in the dispute and focuses on helping each side hear the concerns and priorities of the other.  Working with the individuals in conflict, a mediator aims to help them create a solution acceptable to both sides.  Sometimes the third party is an Arbitrator whose role is to hear each side and provide a decision to resolve the dispute.  In some cases the conflict results in the even more formal process of a trial.

There are four key skills you need to approach conflict resolution with or without a third party involved (Segal et al, 2020; Fighting Fair, n.d.).

Conflict can be a very stressful experience and your Stress Management is an essential first step.  When we are stressed, we can’t think clearly, we can’t understand someone else’s thoughts or feelings, and it makes communication very difficult.  Use whatever method works best for you to manage your stress.

Once your stress is managed, it is easier to exert Control over your Emotions.  Recognize the emotions you are experiencing to assist in your processing the experience without having a purely emotional response.

With your stress and emotions recognized and managed, it makes it easier to recognize and pay attention to the feelings you and the other people express  and you can Identify Non-Verbal Communication.   Much is said without words and body language is a good indication of how the other person feels towards the situation.

Respect each other is standard for every communication situation and essential to remember if you are in a position of conflict.  Personal attacks, or drawing on personal knowledge, has no productive part in conflict resolution.

Many resources may explain the benefits of humour, but caution should be used.  Sometimes an emotional situation is not the best time for humour as you can unintentionally be seen to diminish the importance another person places on the experience.

Work together to identify the problem by taking the time to see it from multiple perspectives.  Be clear about the desired results and end goal.  Think about the relationships and long term impacts that any course of action may have on all parties.  It takes commitment to resolve a conflict.

Problem Solving

We covered Reflection and Feedback in Chapter 12 and these are essential steps for effective conflict resolution and problem solving. Even the Trial and Error process of problem solving relies on evaluating the success of an action before moving on to another attempt.

Many different approaches to problem solving exist though the basic core approach can be seen across geographic and language borders.  The PDCA approach – Plan, Do, Check, Act – provides the basic four steps process that can be expanded to suit any profession or experience (Plan, Do, Check, Act, 2021).

Problem solving starts with a clear identification of problem.  Then you need to clarify the desired end result.  The development of a plan can be as short or as long as necessary.  Once you have a plan, you have to implement it: Do.  Check is your opportunity to evaluate the success of your plan and make any amendments necessary.  Finally, Act: put your strategy into practice.  An important point to remember is that the reflection and evaluation should be an ongoing part of the solution you implement.

Chapter 13 Check-out:

  • Explore Conflict Approaches and Solutions

Remember your last conflict with another person.  How was it resolved?  How would you like it to have been resolved?  What could you have done to implement that change in result?

How do you usually approach problem solving?  How successful has it been for you? 

What, if anything, would you like to change about how you’ve problem solved in the past?

Resources and References

Benoliel, B. (2017). Five styles of conflict resolution.  Walden University.  [Online]  https://www.waldenu.edu/news-and-events/walden-news/2017/0530-whats-your-conflict-management-style

Fighting Fair to Resolve Conflict. (n.d.).  Counselling and Mental Health Centre. University of Texas at Austin. [Online] https://cmhc.utexas.edu/fightingfair.html

Goleman, D. (April 2012). Daniel Goleman Introduces Emotional Intelligence .  Big Think. [Online] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7m9eNoB3NU

Grant, A., (February 2021). The Easiest Person to Fool .  The Hidden Brain. NPR Podcast. [Online] https://hidden-brain.simplecast.com/episodes/the-easiest-person-to-fool-f1hbMrGr

Grant, A., (April 2021). The Science of Productive Conflict . TED Podcast. [Online] https://www.ted.com/podcasts/worklife/the-science-of-productive-conflict-transcript

O’Connor, T., (October 2020). 3 Simple Conflict Analysis Tools That Anyone Can Use. [Online] https://medium.com/p/c30689757a0d

Plan Do Check Act: A Simple Problem Solving Methodology. (2021).  Educational-Business-Articles.com [Online] https://www.educational-business-articles.com/plan-do-check-act/

Segal, J., Robinson, L., and Smith, M. (2020). Conflict Resolution Skills. Helpguide.org. [Online] https://www.helpguide.org/articles/relationships-communication/conflict-resolution-skills.htm

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Copyright © by Wendy Ward is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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14 Conflict Resolution Strategies for the Workplace

Conflict Resolution

One lesson common to humanity is how to negotiate conflict skillfully.

In a keynote speech to graduate students in conflict analysis, international mediator Kenneth Cloke (2011) made a profound statement that has stayed with me to this day: “Conflict is the arrow pointing to what we need to learn the most.”

Interpersonal skills such as conflict resolution extend beyond social circles, affecting the workplace and illuminating lessons yet to be learned.

American businesses lose $359 billion yearly due to unresolved conflict and low productivity (Kauth, 2020). The physical, emotional, psychological, and interpersonal tolls are incalculable.

Can we seek a better understanding of conflict and transform its devastating effects?

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Work & Career Coaching Exercises for free . These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or your clients identify opportunities for professional growth and create a more meaningful career.

This Article Contains:

What is conflict resolution & why is it important, 5 psychological benefits of conflict resolution, 7 examples of conflict resolution skills, how to do conflict resolution: 2 approaches, 6 methods and approaches to apply in the office, 6 strategies and techniques for the workplace, best activities, games, workbooks, and online tools, helpful books for managers and organizations, resources from positivepsychology.com, a take-home message.

Pruitt and Kim (2004, pp. 7–8) describe conflict as “perceived divergence of interest, a belief that the parties’ current aspirations are incompatible.”

Conflict resolution is an agreement reached when all or most of the issues of contention are cleared up (Pruitt & Kim, 2004).

Further, conflict management is a product of successful problem-solving in which the parties have worked out ways to de-escalate conflict and avoid future escalations.

Conflict can be disruptive and, at worst, destructive. Once it erupts, it’s hard to control (Bolton, 1986). Emotions run high during conflict, blocking the path to rational solutions.

Conflict resolution is important because “when people experience conflicts, much of their energy goes into emotions related to those conflicts” (Wilmot & Hocker, 2011, p. 2).

Some emotions commonly associated with conflict include fear, anger, distrust, rejection, defensiveness, hopelessness, resentment, and stress (Wilmot & Hocker, 2011; Bolton, 1986).

Another reason conflict resolution is important is because people involved in heavily contentious conflict are likely to experience “a wide range of psychological and physical health problems including weakened immune system, depression, alcoholism, and eating disorders” (Pruitt & Kim, 2004, pp. 11–12).

Clearly, languishing in this state of emotional upheaval and chaos is harmful emotionally, physically, and psychologically.

Conflict resolution: A theoretical framework

Realistic conflict theory assumes “conflict can always be explained by some tangible (like territory, money, prizes) or intangible (like power, prestige, honor) resource that is desired by both groups and is in short supply” (Pruitt & Kim, 2004, pp. 28–29).

This theory attempts to explain why conflict occurs as humans perpetually strive to acquire perceived needs.

Benefits conflict resolution

Cortisol released because of ongoing stress soaks the brain’s nerve cells, causing memories to shrink (Leaf, 2008).

This affects the ability to think creatively, a helpful component for resolution.

In addition, the stress response increases blood sugar levels, speeding up our heart rate to pump blood to our arms, legs, and brain in preparation to escape (Leaf, 2008). This physiological fight-or-flight reaction  saps precious energy.

Dealing with emotions first will help reduce emotional arousal and stress. Once the body returns to normal, rational problem-solving skills can resume. Typically, people get into trouble when they address conflict at the peak of emotional arousal.

For this reason, acknowledge that the issue needs to be addressed but wait until emotions subside before engaging in a discussion. This ensures the issue is not ignored. In other words, conflict can be scheduled .

Some psychological benefits of conflict resolution include (Arslan, Hamarta, & Usla, 2010; Sexton & Orchard, 2016; Bolton, 1986):

  • Stress reduction
  • Improved self-esteem

Improved self-efficacy

  • Better relationships

Increased energy

Let’s take a quick look at two of the most common benefits.

Self-efficacy is a person’s belief in their capability to complete a specific task successfully (Lunenburg, 2011). Learning and practicing skills such as effective communication and conflict resolution are essential building blocks for self-efficacy. Successful conflict resolution skills in the workplace increase confidence, promoting the likelihood of future successes (Lunenburg, 2011).

Increased self-efficacy “influences the tasks employees choose to learn and the goals they set for themselves” (Lunenburg, 2011, p. 1). It also influences employees’ efforts and perseverance when taking on and learning new tasks (Lunenburg, 2011).

Sometimes you have to expend energy to gain energy. Conflict robs individuals and organizations of precious energy. Mastering conflict resolution skills takes energy initially but can save energy in the long run through reduced stress and improved relationships and productivity.

conflict resolution and styles in problem solving

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To reap the benefits of resolving conflict, certain helpful skills must be applied, and there are many conflict resolution skills that are effective for the workplace.

Below are skills believed to be crucial for resolving conflict.

1. Self-awareness

Self-awareness is described by Goleman (1995, p. 43) as “recognizing a feeling as it happens.” Goleman states that people with high self-awareness have moment-to-moment awareness and navigate life adeptly.

2. Self-control

Self-control is the ability to manage unruly impulses and emotions effectively. Because emotions play a central role in conflict, the ability to stay composed despite heightened emotions is essential to constructive resolution.

3. Assertive communication

Bolton (1986) describes assertive communication as a dynamic communication style in which the speaker maintains self-respect, expresses personal needs, and defends their own rights without abusing or dominating others.

While an aggressive communication style may shut down a conversation, assertiveness encourages dialogue. This skill takes practice and courage. Bolton (1986) asserts that less than 5% of the population communicates assertively.

4. Collaboration

According to Folger, Poole, and Stutman (2009), the goal of collaboration is to consider all the important needs of the primary parties and develop a solution that meets these needs.

5. Problem-solving

Problem-solving in relation to conflict resolution is a strategy that pursues alternative solutions that satisfy the needs and goals of the parties involved (Pruitt & Kim, 2004).

According to Sorensen (2017), empathy is the ability to share and understand the emotions and feelings of others. Our understanding of another person’s perspective can increase the likelihood of emotional connection and collaboration.

7. Listening

Active listening is one of the most underrated and underutilized conflict resolution skills. Listening during conflict achieves key goals, primarily putting an end to cyclical arguing and opening the door to empathy and understanding.

How to resolve conflict

The conflict resolution method

This simple, three-step formula for conflict resolution works well for conflicts involving values and intense emotions.

Step 1: Engage with the other respectfully

Respect is an attitude shown through specific behaviors, such as how you look at the other person, how you listen, your tone of voice, and word choices.

Step 2: Listen fully until you experience their side

The goal of listening in this manner is to understand the content of the other person’s ideas or contributions, what it means for them, and their feelings about it.

Step 3: Verbalize your feelings, views, and needs

Assertive communication works well in this stage. Some caveats accompany this stage of conflict resolution:

  • This step is not always necessary.
  • Make your statement brief.
  • Avoid loaded words.
  • Be truthful and concise.
  • Disclose your feelings.

Collaborative problem-solving

Bolton (1986) provides a six-step outline for collaboration when the issue is more about needs than emotions.

  • Define the primary needs surrounding the conflict.
  • Brainstorm possible solutions.
  • Choose solutions that meet the needs of both parties.
  • Create an agenda delineating who will assume each task.
  • Implement the plan.
  • Evaluate the solutions and reevaluate if needed.

The conflict resolution method and collaborative problem-solving are generalized approaches to conflict resolution when two or more parties are willing to work together on an issue.

Lipsky, Seeber, and Fincher (2003) provide approaches to work through issues that erupt in work settings.

1. The open door policy

This generalized philosophy is intended to show that management supports open dialogue and encourages staff to discuss differences that arise in the workplace. It is considered an initial step toward conflict resolution.

2. Ombudspersons

These are neutral or impartial managers who provide informal and confidential assistance to staff and management in order to resolve work-related disputes. Ombudspersons may wear a variety of hats, including mediator, fact-finder, consultant, and change agent.

3. Internal peer mediation

Some organizations call on designated employees as mediators to help resolve conflict. This method often addresses issues of a non-statutory nature, such as unfairness.

The success of this method rests on the careful selection of peer mediators based on their exemplary communication skills and abilities.

4. Professional mediators

Professional mediators are not connected with the organization in any way and function as independent, impartial, third parties who assist the primary parties through a formal mediation process.

Mediation is a viable option for creating structure to conflict resolution in an unbiased manner.

5. Peer review and employee appeals

This process is sometimes used by manufacturing organizations in an effort to avoid a union process. The underlying belief is that if at all possible, employee disputes should be resolved internally.

6. Executive panels

This method provides an opportunity for employees to present their claims to a panel of the organization’s senior executives, assuming they will be objective and sympathetic.

Using tools such as questionnaires, activities, and assessments can help employees work through conflict by adding insight and skills to the equation. Let’s look at some such tools.

Techniques for the workplace

2 Tools for groups

Often, people haven’t been taught the skills to discuss issues calmly and productively. The following worksheets can be used to provide structure to conflict.

Reviewing these worksheets before conflict erupts is a great opportunity to open a conversation and agree upon a conflict resolution process before matters spiral out of control.

The Remaining Calm During Conflict – I worksheet helps clients walk through conflict, providing tips on how to perceive conflict and deal with emotional reactions.

The Remaining Calm During Conflict – II worksheet encourages clients to journal about times when they did and did not remain calm during a workplace conflict.

2 Effective questionnaires

This self-assessment provided by CINERGY™ can be used to broaden the scope of awareness of ourselves and others, particularly during conflict. The assessment measures an individual’s current level of conflict intelligence.

This Conflict Management Styles Assessment , made available by the Blake Group, allows clients to uncover their primary conflict style and includes a description of the five conflict management styles.

A look at meditation for conflict resolution

This video provides an insightful awareness of our own habitual patterns and how these manifest in us and others during conflict.

Here is another recommended video that helps visualize how to prepare for conflict and build boundaries with others in a calm manner.

The Two Dollar Game

The Two Dollar Game was developed to help employees learn basic conflict styles and the art of negotiation in a fun, thoughtful way.

Conflict Description Template

This conflict management template created by the University of Iowa is intended to deal with conflict in a university setting but can easily apply to other teams or departments and used as an intuitive conflict mapping guide.

Coping With Stress in the Workplace Workbook by Ester Leutenberg and John Liptak

This workbook by Leutenberg and Liptak contains activities, assessments, journaling prompts, and educational handouts that can be photocopied and used to address conflict in the workplace.

Chapters contain resources about how to deal with workplace stress , different personalities, work habits, and relationships.

Online tools and resources for conflict resolution

The website Online Master of Legal Studies includes a wealth of Free Tools and Resources for Conflict Resolution . Some resources have been incorporated into this blog.

The wide variety of resources include a Cost of Conflict Calculator and tools to enhance cross-cultural communication.

Role-play activity

In this Assertive Message Role-Play , participants are presented with various workplace scenarios and encouraged to formulate assertive messages to initiate a discussion about the problem at hand.

1. People Skills: How to Assert Yourself, Listen to Others, and Resolve Conflicts – Robert Bolton

People Skills

Some books are classics.

This one has been used for years to help guide individuals through the communication and conflict resolution process.

It’s a great resource for anyone interested in building robust interpersonal skills.

Find the book on Amazon .

2. The Big Book of Conflict Resolution Games: Quick, Effective Activities to Improve Communication, Trust and Collaboration – Mary Scannell

The Big Book of Conflict Resolution Games

This is a useful resource for incorporating activities and games to help employees listen to each other, engage productively, and create a culture of respect.

Topics include conflict, communication, diversity, trust, perspectives, emotional intelligence, and collaboration.

3. Emerging Systems for Managing Workplace Conflict – David Lipsky, Ronald Seeber, and Richard Fincher

Emerging Systems for Managing Workplace Conflict

The authors walk readers through the emergence of conflict in the workplace by creating dispute resolution systems for integration in a corporate setting.

This is a helpful resource for managers and corporate leaders interested in reducing the corporate costs of conflict.

4. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High – Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler

Crucial Conversations Tools

Crucial Conversations is a New York Times bestseller that provides tools to traverse difficult and important conversations.

Ideas discussed in this book can help transform your career, organization, and community.

Readers learn how to listen and speak in ways that create safety and inclusion.

  • Assertive Communication This worksheet helps clients learn the difference between passive, aggressive, and assertive communication. Assertive communication is essential for expressing our needs and opinions, and defending our rights in a direct and respectful manner.
  • Active Listening Reflection Worksheet Use this worksheet to help clients sharpen listening skills essential for conflict resolution.

The worksheet reviews eight essential skills for active listening and includes a reflection exercise to evaluate which skills we use effectively and which can be strengthened.

  • Blindfold Guiding Exercise This exercise can be used as an icebreaker or as part of a  team-building exercise when members are struggling with trust issues.

Trust is a crucial element of team stability and is essential when conflict erupts. In this exercise, one person leads a blindfolded partner using simple statements. As trust builds, the duo can be instructed to speed up, slow down, or attempt to lead with silence.

  • Generating Alternative Solutions and Better Decision-Making This worksheet provides a map to work through problem-solving by considering three solutions to a specific issue accompanied by a discussion on the efficacy, do-ability, and effectiveness of the identified solution.
  • 17 Positive Communication Exercises If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others communicate better, check out this collection of 17 validated positive communication tools for practitioners . Use them to help others improve their communication skills and form deeper and more positive relationships.

Conflict divides. The effects of poorly handled conflict range from disruptive to destructive. It robs individuals and organizations of precious resources, such as energy, productivity, peace, and harmony.

Regardless of our station in life, we all still have lessons to learn.

Will we ever be free of conflict? Perhaps we can look at it another way. As we gain skills and experience successes resolving conflict, we can anticipate the next conflict and the next lesson, mindful of the potential wisdom and strengths we’ll gain in the process.

Are you facing an unresolved conflict at work or in your personal life? Try not to be discouraged; instead, think of it as your next life lesson waiting to be discovered.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Work & Career Coaching Exercises for free .

  • Arslan, C., Hamarta, E., & Usla, M. (2010). The relationship between conflict communication, self-esteem and life satisfaction in university students.  Educational Research and Reviews ,  5 (1), 31–34.
  • Bolton, R. (1986). People skills: How to assert yourself, listen to others, and resolve conflict . Touchstone.
  • Cloke, K. (2011). Untitled [Keynote Speaker]. In 24th Residential Institute – Winter 2011 . Nova Southeastern University.
  • Folger, J. P., Poole, M. S., & Stutman, R. K. (2009). Working through conflict: Strategies for relationships, groups, and organizations . Pearson Education.
  • Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ . Bantam Books.
  • Kauth, K. (2020, January). Cost of workplace conflict . Mediate.com. Retrieved November 27, 2021, from https://www.mediate.com/articles/kauth-cost-workplace.cfm
  • Leaf, C. (2008). Who switched off my brain? Controlling toxic thoughts and emotions . Thomas Nelson.
  • Leutenberg, E. R. A., & Liptak, J. J. (2014).  Coping with stress in the workplace workbook.  Whole Person Associates.
  • Lipsky, D. B., Seeber, R. L., & Fincher, R. D. (2003). Emerging systems for managing workplace conflict . Jossey-Bass.
  • Lunenburg, F. C. (2011). Self-efficacy in the workplace: Implications for motivation and performance. International Journal of Management, Business, and Administration , 14 (1), 1–6.
  • Patterson, K., Grenny, J., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2011).  Crucial conversations: Tools for talking when stakes are high  (2nd ed.). McGraw Hill.
  • Pruitt, D. G., & Kim, S. H. (2004). Social conflict: Escalation, stalemate, and settlement (3rd ed.). McGraw Hill.
  • Scannell, M. (2010).  The big book of conflict resolution games: Quick, effective activities to improve communication, trust and collaboration.  McGraw Hill.
  • Sexton, M., & Orchard, C. (2016). Understanding healthcare professionals’ self-efficacy to resolve interprofessional conflict. Journal of Interprofessional Care , 30 (3), 316–323.
  • Sorensen, M. S. (2017). I hear you: The surprisingly simple skill behind extraordinary relationships . Autumn Creek Press.
  • Wilmot, W., & Hocker, J. (2011). Interpersonal conflict (8th ed.). McGraw Hill.

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This is probably the most complete, and beneficial articles I have read about conflict resolution in a long while. Dr. Wilson has seamlessly woven all the important pieces of information, tools, and further readings for us. What a joy to read!

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The post is helpful for many working people as scaling down such nasty situations is the best course of action. There are many interesting aspects about human coalitional psychology in Albuquerque, NM, that many are unaware of and are something you need to know.

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5 Strategies for Conflict Resolution in the Workplace

Business leader resolving workplace conflict

  • 07 Sep 2023

Any scenario in which you live, work, and collaborate with others is susceptible to conflict. Because workplaces are made up of employees with different backgrounds, personalities, opinions, and daily lives, discord is bound to occur. To navigate it, it’s crucial to understand why it arises and your options for resolving it.

Common reasons for workplace conflict include:

  • Misunderstandings or poor communication skills
  • Differing opinions, viewpoints, or personalities
  • Biases or stereotypes
  • Variations in learning or processing styles
  • Perceptions of unfairness

Although conflict is common, many don’t feel comfortable handling it—especially with colleagues. As a business leader, you’ll likely clash with other managers and need to help your team work through disputes.

Here’s why conflict resolution is important and five strategies for approaching it.

Access your free e-book today.

Why Is Addressing Workplace Conflict Important?

Pretending conflict doesn’t exist doesn’t make it go away. Ignoring issues can lead to missed deadlines, festering resentment, and unsuccessful initiatives.

Yet, according to coaching and training firm Bravely , 53 percent of employees handle “toxic” situations by avoiding them. Worse still, averting a difficult conversation can cost an organization $7,500 and more than seven workdays.

That adds up quickly: American businesses lose $359 billion yearly due to the impact of unresolved conflict.

As a leader, you have a responsibility to foster healthy conflict resolution and create a safe, productive work environment for employees.

“Some rights, such as the right to safe working conditions or the right against sexual harassment, are fundamental to the employment relationship,” says Harvard Business School Professor Nien-hê Hsieh in the course Leadership, Ethics, and Corporate Accountability . “These rights are things that employees should be entitled to no matter what. They’re often written into the law, but even when they aren’t, they’re central to the ethical treatment of others, which involves respecting the inherent dignity and intrinsic worth of each individual.”

Effectively resolving disputes as they arise benefits your employees’ well-being and your company’s financial health. The first step is learning about five conflict resolution strategies at your disposal.

Related: How to Navigate Difficult Conversations with Employees

While there are several approaches to conflict, some can be more effective than others. The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Model —developed by Dr. Kenneth W. Thomas and Dr. Ralph H. Kilmann—outlines five strategies for conflict resolution:

  • Accommodating
  • Compromising
  • Collaborating

These fall on a graph, with assertiveness on the y-axis and cooperativeness on the x-axis. In the Thomas-Kilmann model, “assertiveness” refers to the extent to which you try to reach your own goal, and “cooperativeness” is the extent to which you try to satisfy the other party’s goal.

Alternatively, you can think of these axis labels as the “importance of my goal” and the “importance of this relationship.” If your assertiveness is high, you aim to achieve your own goal. If your cooperativeness is high, you strive to help the other person reach theirs to maintain the relationship.

Here’s a breakdown of the five strategies and when to use each.

1. Avoiding

Avoiding is a strategy best suited for situations in which the relationship’s importance and goal are both low.

While you’re unlikely to encounter these scenarios at work, they may occur in daily life. For instance, imagine you’re on a public bus and the passenger next to you is loudly playing music. You’ll likely never bump into that person again, and your goal of a pleasant bus ride isn’t extremely pressing. Avoiding conflict by ignoring the music is a valid option.

In workplace conflicts—where your goals are typically important and you care about maintaining a lasting relationship with colleagues—avoidance can be detrimental.

Remember: Some situations require avoiding conflict, but you’re unlikely to encounter them in the workplace.

2. Competing

Competing is another strategy that, while not often suited for workplace conflict, can be useful in some situations.

This conflict style is for scenarios in which you place high importance on your goal and low importance on your relationships with others. It’s high in assertiveness and low in cooperation.

You may choose a competing style in a crisis. For instance, if someone is unconscious and people are arguing about what to do, asserting yourself and taking charge can help the person get medical attention quicker.

You can also use it when standing up for yourself and in instances where you feel unsafe. In those cases, asserting yourself and reaching safety is more critical than your relationships with others.

When using a competing style in situations where your relationships do matter (for instance, with a colleague), you risk impeding trust—along with collaboration, creativity, and productivity.

3. Accommodating

The third conflict resolution strategy is accommodation, in which you acquiesce to the other party’s needs. Use accommodating in instances where the relationship matters more than your goal.

For example, if you pitch an idea for a future project in a meeting, and one of your colleagues says they believe it will have a negative impact, you could resolve the conflict by rescinding your original thought.

This is useful if the other person is angry or hostile or you don’t have a strong opinion on the matter. It immediately deescalates conflict by removing your goal from the equation.

While accommodation has its place within organizational settings, question whether you use it to avoid conflict. If someone disagrees with you, simply acquiescing can snuff out opportunities for innovation and creative problem-solving .

As a leader, notice whether your employees frequently fall back on accommodation. If the setting is safe, encouraging healthy debate can lead to greater collaboration.

Related: How to Create a Culture of Ethics and Accountability in the Workplace

4. Compromising

Compromising is a conflict resolution strategy in which you and the other party willingly forfeit some of your needs to reach an agreement. It’s known as a “lose-lose” strategy, since neither of you achieve your full goal.

This strategy works well when your care for your goal and the relationship are both moderate. You value the relationship, but not so much that you abandon your goal, like in accommodation.

For example, maybe you and a peer express interest in leading an upcoming project. You could compromise by co-leading it or deciding one of you leads this one and the other the next one.

Compromising requires big-picture thinking and swallowing your pride, knowing you won’t get all your needs fulfilled. The benefits are that you and the other party value your relationship and make sacrifices to reach a mutually beneficial resolution.

5. Collaborating

Where compromise is a lose-lose strategy, collaboration is a win-win. In instances of collaboration, your goal and the relationship are equally important, motivating both you and the other party to work together to find an outcome that meets all needs.

An example of a situation where collaboration is necessary is if one of your employees isn’t performing well in their role—to the point that they’re negatively impacting the business. While maintaining a strong, positive relationship is important, so is finding a solution to their poor performance. Framing the conflict as a collaboration can open doors to help each other discover its cause and what you can do to improve performance and the business’s health.

Collaboration is ideal for most workplace conflicts. Goals are important, but so is maintaining positive relationships with co-workers. Promote collaboration whenever possible to find creative solutions to problems . If you can’t generate a win-win idea, you can always fall back on compromise.

How to Become a More Effective Leader | Access Your Free E-Book | Download Now

Considering Your Responsibilities as a Leader

As a leader, not only must you address your own conflicts but help your employees work through theirs. When doing so, remember your responsibilities to your employees—whether ethical, legal, or economic.

Leadership, Ethics, and Corporate Accountability groups your ethical responsibilities to employees into five categories:

  • Well-being: What’s ultimately good for the person
  • Rights: Entitlement to receive certain treatment
  • Duties: A moral obligation to behave in a specific way
  • Best practices: Aspirational standards not required by law or cultural norms
  • Fairness: Impartial and just treatment

In the course, Hsieh outlines three types of fairness you can use when helping employees solve conflicts:

  • Legitimate expectations: Employees reasonably expect certain practices or behaviors to continue based on experiences with the organization and explicit promises.
  • Procedural fairness: Managers must resolve issues impartially and consistently.
  • Distributive fairness: Your company equitably allocates opportunities, benefits, and burdens.

Particularly with procedural fairness, ensure you don’t take sides when mediating conflict. Treat both parties equally, allowing them time to speak and share their perspectives. Guide your team toward collaboration or compromise, and work toward a solution that achieves the goal while maintaining—and even strengthening—relationships.

Are you interested in learning how to navigate difficult decisions as a leader? Explore Leadership, Ethics, and Corporate Accountability —one of our online leadership and management courses —and download our free guide to becoming a more effective leader.

conflict resolution and styles in problem solving

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Conflict Management: Definition, Strategies, and Styles

Learn how to manage disputes at home or work using various conflict management styles and strategies.

[Featured Image] A manager discusses conflict management with her team in front of a whiteboard.

Conflict management is an umbrella term for the way we identify and handle conflicts fairly and efficiently. The goal is to minimize the potential negative impacts that can arise from disagreements and increase the odds of a positive outcome. 

At home or work, disagreements can be unpleasant, and not every dispute calls for the same response. Learn to choose the right conflict management style, and you'll be better able to respond constructively whenever disputes arise.  

What is conflict management?

Conflict management refers to the way that you handle disagreements. On any given day, you may have to deal with a dispute between you and another individual, your family members, or fellow employees. 

Although there are many reasons people disagree, many conflicts revolve around: 

Personal values (real or perceived)


Conflicting goals  

Power dynamics

Communication style

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5 conflict management styles

It's human to deal with conflict by defaulting to what's comfortable. According to University of Pittsburgh professors of management Ken Thomas and Ralph Kilmann, most people take one of two approaches to conflict management, assertiveness or cooperativeness [ 1 ]. From these approaches come five modes or styles of conflict management: 

1. Accommodating

An accommodating mode of conflict management tends to be high in cooperation but low in assertiveness. When you use this style, you resolve the disagreement by sacrificing your own needs and desires for those of the other party. 

This management style might benefit your work when conflicts are trivial and you need to move on quickly. At home, this style works when your relationship with your roommate, partner, or child is more important than being right. Although accommodation might be optimal for some conflicts, others require a more assertive style. 

2. Avoiding

When avoiding, you try to dodge or bypass a conflict. This style of managing conflicts is low in assertiveness and cooperativeness. Avoidance is unproductive for handling most disputes because it may leave the other party feeling like you don't care. Also, if left unresolved, some conflicts become much more troublesome. 

However, an avoiding management style works in situations where:

You need time to think through a disagreement.

You have more pressing problems to deal with first.

The risks of confronting a problem outweigh the benefits.

3. Collaborating

A collaborating conflict management style demands a high level of cooperation from all parties involved. Individuals in a dispute come together to find a respectful resolution that benefits everyone. Collaborating works best if you have plenty of time and are on the same power level as the other parties involved. If not, you may be better off choosing another style. 

4. Competing

When you use a competitive conflict management style (sometimes called 'forcing'), you put your own needs and desires over those of others. This style is high in assertiveness and low in cooperation. In other words, it's the opposite of accommodating. While you might think this style would never be acceptable, it's sometimes needed when you are in a higher position of power than other parties and need to resolve a dispute quickly. 

5. Compromising

Compromising demands moderate assertiveness and cooperation from all parties involved. With this type of resolution, everyone gets something they want or need. This style of managing conflict works well when time is limited. Because of time constraints, compromising isn't always as creative as collaborating, and some parties may come away less satisfied than others. 

Learn more about these conflict management approaches in this video from Rice University:

Tips for choosing a conflict management style

The key to successfully managing conflict is choosing the right style for each situation. For instance, it might make sense to use avoidance or accommodation to deal with minor issues, while critical disputes may call for a more assertive approach, like a competitive conflict management style. When you're wondering which method of conflict management to choose, ask yourself the following questions:

How important are your needs and wants?

What will happen if your needs and wants aren't met?

How much do you value the other person/people involved?

How much value do you place on the issue involved?

Have you thought through the consequences of using differing styles?

Do you have the time and energy to address the situation right now?

The answers to these questions can help you decide which style to pick in a particular situation based on what you've learned about the various conflict management styles. 

Tips and strategies for conflict management

Conflicts inevitably pop up when you spend time with other people, whether at work or home. However, when conflicts aren’t resolved, they can lead to various negative consequences. These include: 

Hurt feelings

Resentment and frustration

Loneliness and depression

Passive aggression and communication issues

Increased stress and stress-related health problems

Reduced productivity

Staff turnover

Conflict is a part of life. Knowing a few strategies for managing conflict can help keep your home or workplace healthy. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when conflict arises:

Acknowledge the problem.

If someone comes to you with a dispute that seems trivial to you, remember it may not be trivial to them. Actively listen to help the other person feel heard, then decide what to do about the situation. 

Gather the necessary information.

You can't resolve a conflict unless you've investigated all sides of the problem. Take the time you need to understand all the necessary information. This way, you'll choose the best conflict management style and find an optimal resolution. 

Set guidelines.

Whether discussing a conflict with a spouse or intervening for two employees, setting a few guidelines before you begin is essential. Participants should agree to speak calmly, listen, and try to understand the other person's point of view. Agree up front that if the guidelines aren't followed, the discussion will end and resume at a later time. 

Keep emotion out of the discussion.

An angry outburst may end a conflict, but it's only temporary. Talk things out calmly to avoid having the dispute pop up again. 

Be decisive. 

Once you've talked through a dispute and evaluated the best approach, take action on the solution you've identified. Letting others in on what you decide lets them know that you care and are moving forward.  

Learn how to transform conflict into collaboration with Relationship Management from Rice University. Develop essential workplace skills, like giving and receiving feedback, coaching team members, building influence, conducting effective meetings, and managing conflict.  

Article sources

Management Weekly. " Thomas Kilmann Conflict Model , https://managementweekly.org/thomas-kilmann-conflict-resolution-model/." Accessed April 29, 2022.

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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What is conflict?

Causes of conflict in a relationship, how do you respond to conflict, conflict resolution, stress, and emotions, core skill 1: quick stress relief, core skill 2: emotional awareness, nonverbal communication and conflict resolution, more tips for managing and resolving conflict, conflict resolution skills.

Whatever the cause of disagreements and disputes at home or work, these skills can help you resolve conflict in a constructive way and keep your relationships strong and growing.

conflict resolution and styles in problem solving

Conflict is a normal part of any healthy relationship. After all, two people can’t be expected to agree on everything, all the time. The key is not to fear or try to avoid conflict but to learn how to resolve it in a healthy way.

When conflict is mismanaged, it can cause great harm to a relationship, but when handled in a respectful, positive way, conflict provides an opportunity to strengthen the bond between two people. Whether you’re experiencing conflict at home, work, or school, learning these skills can help you resolve differences in a healthy way and build stronger, more rewarding relationships.

Conflict 101

  • A conflict is more than just a disagreement. It is a situation in which one or both parties perceive a threat (whether or not the threat is real).
  • Conflicts continue to fester when ignored. Because conflicts involve perceived threats to our well-being and survival, they stay with us until we face and resolve them.
  • We respond to conflicts based on our perceptions of the situation, not necessarily to an objective review of the facts. Our perceptions are influenced by our life experiences, culture, values, and beliefs.
  • Conflicts trigger strong emotions. If you aren't comfortable with your emotions or able to manage them in times of stress, you won't be able to resolve conflict successfully.
  • Conflicts are an opportunity for growth. When you're able to resolve conflict in a relationship, it builds trust. You can feel secure knowing your relationship can survive challenges and disagreements.

Conflict arises from differences, both large and small. It occurs whenever people disagree over their values, motivations, perceptions, ideas, or desires. Sometimes these differences appear trivial, but when a conflict triggers strong feelings, a deep personal need is often at the core of the problem. These needs can range from the need to feel safe and secure or respected and valued, to the need for greater closeness and intimacy.

Think about the opposing needs of a toddler and a parent. The child’s need is to explore, so venturing to the street or the cliff edge meets that need. But the parent's need is to protect the child’s safety, a need that can only be met by limiting the toddler’s exploration. Since these needs are at odds, conflict arises.

The needs of each party play an important role in the long-term success of a relationship. Each deserves respect and consideration. In personal relationships, a lack of understanding about differing needs can result in distance, arguments, and break-ups. In the workplace, differing needs can result in broken deals, decreased profits, and lost jobs.

[Read: Tips for Building a Healthy Relationship]

When you can recognize conflicting needs and are willing to examine them with compassion and understanding, it can lead to creative problem solving, team building, and stronger relationships.

Do you fear conflict or avoid it at all costs? If your perception of conflict comes from painful memories from early childhood or previous unhealthy relationships, you may expect all disagreements to end badly. You may view conflict as demoralizing, humiliating, or something to fear. If your early life experiences left you feeling powerless or out of control, conflict may even be traumatizing for you.

If you're afraid of conflict, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you enter a conflict situation already feeling threatened, it's tough to deal with the problem at hand in a healthy way. Instead, you're more likely to either shut down or blow up in anger.

Conflict triggers strong emotions and can lead to hurt feelings, disappointment, and discomfort. When handled in an unhealthy manner, it can cause irreparable rifts, resentments, and break-ups. But when conflict is resolved in a healthy way, it increases your understanding of the other person, builds trust, and strengthens your relationships.

If you are out of touch with your feelings or so stressed that you can only pay attention to a limited number of emotions, you won't be able to understand your own needs. This will make it hard to communicate with others and establish what's really troubling you. For example, couples often argue about petty differences—the way she hangs the towels, the way he slurps his soup—rather than what is  really bothering them.

The ability to successfully resolve conflict depends on your ability to:

  • Manage stress quickly while remaining alert and calm. By staying calm, you can accurately read and interpret verbal and nonverbal communication.
  • Control your emotions and behavior. When you're in control of your emotions, you can communicate your needs without threatening, intimidating, or punishing others.
  • Pay attention to the  feelings being expressed as well as the spoken words of others.
  • Be aware of and respect differences. By avoiding disrespectful words and actions, you can almost always resolve a problem faster.

To successfully resolve a conflict, you need to learn and practice two core skills:

  • Quick stress relief: the ability to quickly relieve stress in the moment.
  • Emotional awareness: the ability to remain comfortable enough with your emotions to react in constructive ways, even in the midst of a perceived attack.
  • Are relationship struggles robbing you of your happiness? Not sure where to turn? Ritual offers relationship guidance you can trust with 1:1 expert support.

Being able to manage and relieve stress in the moment is the key to staying balanced, focused, and in control, no matter what challenges you face. If you don't know how to stay centered and in control of yourself, you will become overwhelmed in conflict situations and unable to respond in healthy ways.

Psychologist Connie Lillas uses a driving analogy to describe the three most common ways people respond when they're overwhelmed by stress:

Foot on the gas. An angry or agitated stress response. You're heated, keyed up, overly emotional, and unable to sit still.

Foot on the brake. A withdrawn or depressed stress response. You shut down, space out, and show very little energy or emotion.

Foot on both gas and brake. A tense and frozen stress response. You “freeze” under pressure and can't do anything. You look paralyzed, but under the surface you're extremely agitated.

How stress affects conflict resolution

Stress interferes with the ability to resolve conflict by limiting your ability to:

  • Accurately read another person's body language .
  • Hear what someone is really saying.
  • Be aware of your own feelings.
  • Be in touch with your own, deep-rooted needs.
  • Communicate your needs clearly.

Is stress a problem for you?

You may be so used to feeling stressed that you're not even aware you  are stressed. Stress may pose a problem in your life if you identify with the following:

  • You often feel tense or tight somewhere in your body.
  • You're not aware of movement in your chest or stomach when you breathe.
  • Conflict absorbs your time and attention.

Learn how to manage stress in the moment

One of the most reliable ways to rapidly reduce stress is by engaging one or more of your senses—sight, sound, taste, smell, touch—or through movement. You could squeeze a stress ball, smell a relaxing scent, taste a soothing cup of tea, or look at a treasured photograph. We all tend to respond differently to sensory input, often depending on how we respond to stress, so take some time to find things that are soothing to you. Read: Quick Stress Relief .

Emotional awareness is the key to understanding yourself and others. If you don't know how or why you feel a certain way, you won't be able to communicate effectively or resolve disagreements.

[Read: Improving Emotional Intelligence]

Although knowing your own feelings may sound simple, many people ignore or try to sedate strong emotions like anger, sadness, and fear. Your ability to handle conflict, however, depends on being connected to these feelings. If you're afraid of strong emotions or if you insist on finding solutions that are strictly rational, your ability to face and resolve differences will be limited.

Why emotional awareness is a key factor in resolving conflict

Emotional awareness—the consciousness of your  moment-to-moment emotional experience—and the ability to manage all of your feelings appropriately, is the basis of a communication process that can resolve conflict.

Emotional awareness helps you to:

  • Understand what is really troubling other people
  • Understand yourself, including what is really troubling you
  • Stay motivated until the conflict is resolved
  • Communicate clearly and effectively
  • Interest and influence others

Assessing your level of emotional awareness

The following quiz helps you assess your level of emotional awareness. Answer the following questions with:  almost never, occasionally, often, very often, or  almost always . There are no right or wrong responses, only the opportunity to become better acquainted with your emotional responses.

What kind of relationship do you have with your emotions?

  • Do you experience feelings that flow, encountering one emotion after another as your experiences change from moment to moment?
  • Are your emotions accompanied by physical sensations that you experience in places like your stomach or chest?
  • Do you experience distinct feelings and emotions, such as anger, sadness, fear, and joy, which are evident in different facial expressions?
  • Can you experience intense feelings that are strong enough to capture both your own attention and that of others?
  • Do you pay attention to your emotions? Do they factor into your decision-making?

If any of these experiences are unfamiliar, your emotions may be “turned” down or even off. In either case, you may need help developing your emotional awareness. You can do this by using Helpguide's free Emotional Intelligence Toolkit.

When people are in the middle of a conflict, the words they use rarely convey the issues at the heart of the problem. But by paying close attention to the other person's nonverbal signals or “body language,” such as facial expressions, posture, gestures, and tone of voice, you can better understand what the person is really saying. This will allow you to respond in a way that builds trust, and gets to the root of the problem.

[Read: Nonverbal Communication and Body Language]

Your ability to accurately read another person depends on your own emotional awareness. The more aware you are of your own emotions, the easier it will be for you to pick up on the wordless clues that reveal what others are feeling. Think about what you are transmitting to others during conflict, and if what you say matches your body language. If you say “I'm fine,” but you clench your teeth and look away, then your body is clearly signaling you are anything but “fine.” A calm tone of voice, a reassuring touch, or an interested facial expression can go a long way toward relaxing a tense exchange.

You can ensure that the process of managing and resolving conflict is as positive as possible by sticking to the following guidelines:

Listen for what is felt as well as said. When you really listen, you connect more deeply to your own needs and emotions, and to those of other people. Listening also strengthens, informs, and makes it easier for others to hear you when it's your turn to speak.

Make conflict resolution the priority rather than winning or “being right.” Maintaining and strengthening the relationship, rather than “winning” the argument, should always be your first priority. Be respectful of the other person and their viewpoint.

Focus on the present. If you're holding on to grudges based on past conflicts, your ability to see the reality of the current situation will be impaired. Rather than looking to the past and assigning blame, focus on what you can do in the here-and-now to solve the problem.

Pick your battles. Conflicts can be draining, so it's important to consider whether the issue is really worth your time and energy. Maybe you don't want to surrender a parking space if you've been circling for 15 minutes, but if there are dozens of empty spots, arguing over a single space isn't worth it.

Be willing to forgive. Resolving conflict is impossible if you're unwilling or unable to forgive others. Resolution lies in releasing the urge to punish, which can serve only to deplete and drain your life.

Know when to let something go. If you can't come to an agreement, agree to disagree. It takes two people to keep an argument going. If a conflict is going nowhere, you can choose to disengage and move on.

Using humor in conflict resolution

You can avoid many confrontations and resolve arguments and disagreements by communicating in a humorous way . Humor can help you say things that might otherwise be difficult to express without offending someone. However, it's important that you laugh with the other person, not at them. When humor and play are used to reduce tension and anger, reframe problems, and put the situation into perspective, the conflict can actually become an opportunity for greater connection and intimacy.

More Information

  • CR Kit - Covers causes of conflict, different conflict styles, and fair fighting guidelines to help you positively resolve disagreements. (Conflict Resolution Network)
  • 12 Skills Summary - A 12-step conflict resolution training kit. (Conflict Resolution Network)
  • Effective Communication - The art of listening in conflict resolution. (University of Maryland)
  • 10.3 Causes and Outcomes of Conflict – Organizational Behavior . (n.d.). Retrieved May 25, 2022, from Link
  • Başoğul, C., & Özgür, G. (2016). Role of Emotional Intelligence in Conflict Management Strategies of Nurses. Asian Nursing Research , 10(3), 228–233. Link
  • Corcoran, Kathleen O’Connell, and Brent Mallinckrodt. “Adult Attachment, Self-Efficacy, Perspective Taking, and Conflict Resolution.” Journal of Counseling & Development 78, no. 4 (2000): 473–83. Link
  • Yarnell, Lisa M., and Kristin D. Neff. “Self-Compassion, Interpersonal Conflict Resolutions, and Well-Being.” Self and Identity 12, no. 2 (March 1, 2013): 146–59. Link
  • Tucker, Corinna Jenkins, Susan M. Mchale, and Ann C. Crouter. “Conflict Resolution: Links with Adolescents’ Family Relationships and Individual Well-Being.” Journal of Family Issues 24, no. 6 (September 1, 2003): 715–36. Link

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Effective communication skills: resolving conflicts .

Couple in conflict

Even the happiest of relationships experience conflicts and problems (Markman, Stanley, Blumberg, Jenkins & Whiteley, 2004). If handled well, issues provide opportunities for personal and relationship growth. There are many skills that can help individuals seeking to resolve conflicts in a healthy way. One of the greatest skills that aids in conflict resolution is effective communication.

Common Conflicts

Issues, or conflicts, in relationships consist of any situation, event or experience that is of concern or importance to those involved. A variety of factors lead to conflict, some of which include topics such as money, children, and in-laws, personal issues such as selfesteem, values, expectations, or goals, or relational issues such as the amount of together time versus alone time, support versus control, affection, and communication (Miller & Miller, 1997). While there are seemingly endless reasons for conflicts, they generally surround the underlying needs of all humans including physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual (Miller & Miller, 1997; Townsend, 2010). Most importantly, how we approach and communicate about these issues often determines the outcome.

Conflicts in Communication

Most people know that in order to resolve conflicts, we need to communicate about the issue; but negative patterns of communication can often lead to greater frustration and escalation of conflict. Consider the following communication challenges:

Body Language/Tone of Voice

Communication is more than the words we choose to use. In fact, our body language and tone of voice often speak louder than our words. For example, shouting “I’m not angry” is not a very convincing message! When we give an incongruent message where our tone of voice and body language does not match our message, confusion and frustration often follow (Gottman & DeClaire, 2001). In order to overcome this communication challenge, we need to be aware of what messages our body language and tone of voice may be sending others. Speak calmly, give eye contact, smile when appropriate, and maintain an open and relaxed posture (Paterson, 2000).

Differences in Style

Each of us has a unique way of communicating, often based on our family experiences, culture, gender and many other factors (Markman et al., 2004; Miller & Miller, 1997). For example, we may tend to be more loud, outgoing, or emotional when compared to our partner. While there is no right or wrong style, our past experiences often lead to expectations that are not usually verbally communicated with others, which can cause tension and misunderstandings in relationships. For example, if we came from a large family that tended to shout in order to be heard, we may think that speaking loudly is normal. But if our partner came from a calmer family environment, he/she may be uncomfortable or even frightened by a raised voice (Markman et al., 2004).

Discussing our backgrounds and perceptions can help to clarify expectations to ourselves and others and can also help our partner to understand our point of view. Knowing this information can often help in the problem solving process.

Communication Roadblocks

Communication roadblocks occur when two people talk in such a way that neither one feels understood. Research has found four particularly negative styles of communication, often referred to as the “four horsemen of the apocalypse,” (Gottman, 1999, p.27) because if left unchecked, these styles of interaction can eventually become lethal to relationships. These styles are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling (Gottman, 1999).

  • Criticism attacks the character or personality of another. While it is normal to have complaints about another’s specific actions, it is very different to put them down as a person because of those actions. For example, a complaint might be, “I felt worried when you did not call to tell me that you were going to be home late.” A criticism in the same situation would be expressed as “You are so inconsiderate, you never call me when you are going to be late.” Critiques focus on certain behaviors; criticism negatively focuses on the person’s intentions and character.
  • Contempt portrays disgust and a lack of respect for the other person through body language, such as eye rolling or sneering, or by name calling, sarcasm and cutting remarks.
  • Defensiveness is a seemingly understandable reaction that individuals take to criticism and contempt; however, it often escalates the conflict. When we are defensive, we tend to stop listening to the other’s viewpoint and communication is shut down.
  • Stonewalling is withdrawing from communication and refusing to engage in discussion. In other words, it is the adult version of the “silent treatment” that young children utilize when they are upset. Conflict resolution is impossible without communication!

Some additional examples of communication roadblocks include (Miller & Miller, 1997):

  • Ordering (“Stop complaining!”)
  • Warning (“If you do that, you’ll be sorry.”)
  • Preaching (“You shouldn’t act like that.”)
  • Advising (“Just wait a couple of years before deciding.”)
  • Lecturing (“If you do this now, you won’t grow up to be a responsible adult.”)
  • Agreeing, just to keep the peace (“I think you’re right.”)
  • Ridiculing (“OK, little baby.”)
  • Interpreting (“You don’t really believe that.”)
  • Sympathizing (“Don’t worry, it’ll all work out.”)
  • Questioning (“Who put that idea into your head?”)
  • Diverting (“Let’s talk about something more pleasant.”)

Communication roadblocks are very common; however, they do not promote healthy conflict resolution and often lead to escalation of the conflict. Recognizing these roadblocks and making efforts to effectively communicate can help individuals overcome roadblocks.

Tips to Resolve Conflict

Soften the startup.

One of the skills to overcome communication roadblocks includes a soft startup to the conversation by starting with something positive, expressing appreciation, focusing on problems one at a time and taking responsibility for thoughts and feelings (Gottman, 1999; Gottman & Declaire, 2001; Patterson, 2000). In addition, when expressing the problem, starting the message with “I” instead of “You” can decrease defensiveness and promote positive interactions with others (Darrington & Brower, 2012). For example, “I want to stay more involved in making decisions about money” rather than “You never include me in financial decisions.”

Make and Receive Repair Attempts.

Another important skill in overcoming communication roadblocks is learning to make and receive repair attempts (Gottman, 1999). Repair attempts are efforts to keep an increasingly negative interaction from going any further by taking a break or making efforts to calm the situation. This is important because when conflicts arise, we often experience intense emotional and physical stress that can impact our ability to think and reason, which can lead to communication roadblocks (Gottman & DeClaire, 2001). Taking time away from the conflict (at least 20 minutes) to calm down can help us be more prepared to discuss the issue (Gottman, 1999; Gottman & DeClaire, 2001; Markman et al, 2004).

Effective Speaking and Listening Skills

Overcoming communication roadblocks requires effective speaking and listening skills. Markman, Stanley and Blumberg (2010) share what they call the “speaker-listener” technique to help individuals more effectively communicate. Each partner takes turns being the speaker and the listener.    

The rules for the speaker include (Markman et al., 2004; Markman, Stanley & Blumberg, 2010):

  • The speaker should share his/her own thoughts, feelings and concerns—not what he/she thinks the listener’s concerns are.
  • Use “I” statements when speaking to accurately express thoughts and feelings.
  • Keep statements short, to ensure the listener does not get overwhelmed with information.
  • Stop after each short statement so that the listener can paraphrase, or repeat back in his/her own words, what was said to ensure he/she understands. If the paraphrase is not quite right, gently rephrase the statement again to help the listener understand.

The rules for the listener include:

  • Paraphrase what the speaker is saying. If unclear, ask for clarification. Continue until the speaker indicates the message was received correctly.
  • Don’t argue or give opinion about what the speaker says—wait to do this until you are the speaker, and then do so in a respectful manner.
  • While the speaker is talking, the listener should not talk or interrupt except to paraphrase after the speaker.

The speaker and listener should take turns in each role so that each has a chance to express his/her thoughts and feelings. Either can call for a time out at any time. The goal of this activity is not to solve a particular problem, but rather to have a safe and meaningful discussion and to understand each other’s point of view. While we may not always agree with the other’s point of view, understanding and validating other’s thoughts and feelings can improve relationships and help us build on common ground, which may lead to more effective negotiation and problem resolution (Gottman, 1999).

Dealing with conflict can take varying amounts of mental, emotional, and physical energy (Miller & Miller, 1997). It can be work! However, learning and implementing a few simple communication skills can increase positive interactions with others. The opportunities for personal and relationship growth are well worth the effort.

For more information or for classes and workshops:

  • Go to http://strongermarriage.org for tips, articles, and to find relationship education classes near you.
  • Check out your local Extension office for relationship education classes and events. 
  • Darrington, J., & Brower, N. (2012). Effective communication skills: “I” messages and beyond. Utah State University Extension. https://extension.usu.edu/htm/publications/publi cation=14541
  • Gottman, J. M., & DeClaire, J. (2001). The relationship cure: A 5 step guide to strengthening your marriage, family, and friendships. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.
  • Gottman, J. M., & Silver, N. (1999). The seven principles for making marriage work. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.
  • Markman, H. J., Stanley, S. M., & Blumberg, S. L. (2010). Fighting for your marriage. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
  • Markman, H. J, Stanley, S. M., Blumberg, S. L., Jenkins, N. H., & Whiteley, C. (2004). 12 hours to a great marriage: A step-by-step guide for making love last. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
  • Miller, S., & Miller, P. A. (1997). Core communication: Skills and processes. Evergreen, Co: Interpersonal Communication Programs, Inc.
  • Paterson, R. J. (2000). The assertiveness workbook: How to express your ideas and stand up for yourself at work and in relationships. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger, Inc.
  • Townsend, M. (2010). Starved stuff: Feeding the 7 basic needs of healthy relationships. Townsend Relationship Center.

Naomi Brower,  MFHD, CFLE, Extension Assistant Professor; Jana Darrington,  MS, Extension Assistant Professor

Naomi Brower

Naomi Brower

Extension Professor | Couple and Family Relationships | Weber County Director

Home and Community Department

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Researching Conflict, Drama and Learning pp 13–42 Cite as

Conflict Management, Resolution and Transformation

  • John O’Toole 8 ,
  • Dale Bagshaw 9 ,
  • Bruce Burton 10 ,
  • Anita Grünbaum 11 ,
  • Margret Lepp 12 ,
  • Morag Morrison 13 &
  • Janet Pillai 14  
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This chapter offers an historical perspective of key approaches to conflict and detailed descriptions of the key components of conflict, conflict-handling styles and strategies and an overview of a conflict-handling process. It outlines the various components of indirect and direct conflict interventions including third-party roles , asymmetric conflicts , conflict interventions and the tasks of a conflict intervener. The components of the phases of a problem-solving approach to mediation , peer mediation, and the conditions necessary for effective mediation are outlined, and the chapter ends by promoting conflict transformation and narrative mediation as the preferred concepts and perspectives for the DRACON project.

  • Conflict theory
  • Asymmetric conflict
  • Components of conflict
  • Third-party roles
  • Conflict-handling styles and strategies
  • Problem-solving
  • Conflict resolution, management and transformation
  • Peer mediation
  • Narrative mediation

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Conflict Management: Difficult Conversations with Difficult People

Amy r. overton.

1 Division of Health Policy and Management, Department of Health Administration, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Ann C. Lowry

2 Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery, Department of Surgery, University of Minnesota, St Paul, Minnesota

Conflict occurs frequently in any workplace; health care is not an exception. The negative consequences include dysfunctional team work, decreased patient satisfaction, and increased employee turnover. Research demonstrates that training in conflict resolution skills can result in improved teamwork, productivity, and patient and employee satisfaction. Strategies to address a disruptive physician, a particularly difficult conflict situation in healthcare, are addressed.

Objectives: Upon completion of the article, the reader will: (1) Understand the importance of conflict resolution and management. (2) Recognize skill sets applicable to conflict management. (3) Summarize the steps necessary involved in a successful confrontational conversation.

Conflicts of various magnitudes occur frequently. You share a workspace with a colleague who consistently leaves the space disorganized and messy, which seems unprofessional to you since patients are seen in that office. Or a senior colleague insists being the first author on a research paper when you did all the work. In the preoperative area, the anesthesiologist disagrees with your surgical plan in the presence of the patient. A more extreme example would be a disruptive physician who yells or throws charts or instruments.

The frequency of conflict has been measured in several settings. In an observational study of operating rooms, conflicts were described as “high tension events”; in all surgical cases observed there was at least one and up to four high tension events. 1 Another study found on average four conflicts per operation emerged among operating room team members. 2 In a survey of 5,000 full time employees in nine different countries, 85% of employees dealt with conflict at work to some degree and 29% dealt with conflict frequently or always. 3 Another viewpoint focuses upon “toxic personalities” defined as “anyone who demonstrates a pattern of counterproductive work behaviors that debilitate individuals, teams, and even organizations over the long term.” 4 Conflict occurs frequently when working with such people. In a survey, 64% of respondents experienced a toxic personality in their current work environment and 94% had worked with someone like that during their career. 4 In another study, 91% of nurses reported experiencing verbal abuse. 5 The impact of these interactions on mood is significant. In a real-time study, employees recorded interactions with a coworker or superior at four random intervals daily; the employees rated the interactions as positive or negative and recorded their mood. The negative interactions affected the employee's mood five times more strongly than positive encounters. 6

Some would argue that conflict may be beneficial in certain situations, but in others it has negative consequences. 7 The proposed benefits of conflict include improved understanding of the task, team development, and quality of group decision making. The other line of thought suggests that conflict distracts from the immediate tasks and wastes resources on conflict resolution. Whether or not it is occasionally helpful, it is clear that many instances of conflict are harmful.

Conflict is associated with significant cost to organizations. In the study of employees from nine countries, the average number of hours spent per week on workplace conflict varied from 0.9 to 3.3 hours. In the United States, the average was 2.8 hours. 3 The calculated expense based on average hourly earnings in 2008 was $359 billion in lost time. High rates of employee turnover and absenteeism are associated with environments where conflict is poorly managed.

Health care is a complex system that requires effective teamwork and cooperation to function well. Patient safety research reveals that patient outcomes are negatively impacted when conflict mismanagement and other dysfunctions occur. 8 9 10 Another consequence of poorly managed conflict is disruption of care. In a national survey of physicians, almost two-thirds of respondents reported seeing other physicians disrupt patient care at least once a month. 11 More than 10% of the respondents reported witnessing that behavior daily.

Frequent causes of conflict include lack of clarity with expectations or guidelines, poor communication, lack of clear jurisdiction, personality differences, conflicts of interest, and changes within the organization. 12 Behavior that results in conflict could include bullying, limited communication or not sharing important information, and verbal or physical violence. 13 Employees cite personality clashes, stress, heavy workloads, poor leadership at the senior and managerial levels, lack of honesty and openness, and lack of role clarity as the most frequent causes of conflict. 3

Although conflict cannot be avoided, it can be managed. Since conflict will always be present on an individual and organizational level, it is important to develop the skills to appropriately manage a difficult conversation or interaction. Experts agree that the skills necessary can be acquired; they believe that conflict competence can be defined and learned. One definition of conflict competence is “the ability to develop and use cognitive, emotional, and behavioral skills that enhance productive outcomes of conflict while reducing the likelihood of escalation or harm.” 14 The goal is to be competent in having difficult conversations. One model uses the terminology “crucial conversations and “crucial confrontations.” A “crucial conversation” is defined as “a discussion between two or more people where (1) the stakes are high, (2) opinions vary, and (3) emotions run strong.” 15 Confrontations are those face-to-face conversations in which someone is held accountable. 16

Real life examples prove their statements and the benefits of improved conflict management. One group demonstrated that teaching the necessary communication skills resulted in 10% improvement in their habits of confronting difficult issues. 16 With that change, customer and employee satisfaction, productivity, and quality also improved. An information technology (IT) group found that improved communication practices resulted in 30% improvement in quality, almost 40% increase in productivity, and near 50% decrease in costs. 16 CPP Global report “Workplace Conflict and How Business Can Harness it to Thrive” study found “training does not reduce the occurrence of conflict, but it clearly has an impact on how conflict is perceived and can mitigate the negative outcomes associated with conflict.” 3

Various models of successful conflict management have been proposed. 14 16 The models typically include discussions of common responses to conflict and ways to effectively address conflict. These models will be combined and summarized in this article.

The common underlying principles of all the models are that

  • Conflict is inevitable and that both positive and negative consequences may occur depending on how the conflict is managed.
  • The results are likely to be better with active engagement rather than avoidance.
  • People must be motivated to address conflict.
  • Behavioral, cognitive, and emotional skills can be acquired.
  • Emotional skills require self-awareness.
  • The environment must be neutral and feel safe.

Response to Conflict

To begin this process, it is important to cultivate self-awareness in regards to one's physical and emotional reaction to situations involving conflict. The most common responses on approaching conflict include: avoiding, accommodating, competing, compromising, and collaborating. 17 Avoidance (or silence) refers to an individual recognizing conflict in a situation and actively deciding to not engage or deal with the problem. Avoidance may be prudent when the issue is minor in nature, as a temporary response when emotions are high or when others can resolve an issue more efficiently. This approach would be the opposite of someone whose response is to compete, which is categorized as being forcing, uncooperative, and assertive in the situation. Competition might be appropriate in emergent situations or actions known to be unpopular need to be taken on an important issue. People whose response is to accommodate others generally do not have their own needs met. Accommodation may be necessary when one is wrong, if the issue is more critical to others or if the value of harmony in the situation outweighs the benefit of a conflict. When accommodation is used, the conflict is resolved but if the pattern repeats itself frequently residual resentment may affect the relationship. Accommodation is also referred to as yielding. 18 Compromise and collaboration are both a balance of assertiveness and cooperativeness. The difference between the two is that compromise is often a negotiation between two parties with equivalent power, whereas collaboration is focused on finding a solution where all parties involved have their needs met. Compromise is focused on fixing a problem with a set amount of resources and collaboration allows for a broader view on problem solving. A combination of compromise and collaboration has also been defined as a problem-solving response. 18 Although there is not a correct response, responses characterized by open-mindedness to the ideas and perspectives of others promote positive outcomes. 17

Conflict Management Skills

When a conflict exists, the first step is to decide whether to address it. That decision involves balancing the reward against price of addressing the issue; that balance is unique to each circumstance. Some general rules are that if the issue is troublesome enough that it is affecting your behavior or weighing on your conscience, it should be addressed. It is important not to confuse the perceived difficulty of the conversation with determination of whether it will be beneficial and appropriate to proceed. Perceived differences in power often impact a decision to address a conflict; however, lessons from aviation and other industries illustrate the benefits of open communication and the risks of silence even in situations of different levels of authority or power. 19 20

Once it is been decided to address the conflict, there are several steps involved in preparation for the conversation. One step is to determine the exact nature of the conflict. When considering the exact nature of the conflict, some authors offer the following guidance. 16 If the issue occurs once, it is appropriate to discuss the content of the issue; if it has occurred repeatedly, one should focus on the pattern of events. If the problem impacts your relationship with the other person or team members, then the topic should be your relationship. One pitfall of conflict management is allowing task or pattern type conflict to deteriorate to relationship conflict by overpersonalizing the issue. Another system appropriate for team conflict divides conflict into task, process, and relationship conflicts. Task conflict is similar to content conflict, while process conflict refers disagreement over team processes. 21

One must also thoroughly understand one's own position. It is critical to gather all of the background information and any data necessary to discuss the conflict. Then one needs to achieve clarity about what is desired from the confrontation as well as what one is prepared to give up or compromise. Another key element is awareness of which outcomes one considers undesirable. Part of the preparation is consideration of one's own motivations and goals as well as the motivations and goals of the other party. This step seems obvious but is frequently not done or only superficially evaluated. Considering why a rational and ethical person would have behaved in the manner troubling you often opens an alternative view of the situation. The authors of Crucial Confrontations label this preparation as “mastering your story.” 16 In short, it is understanding from as many vantage points as possible how the problem situation might have developed.

The level of intensity of the conflict is another consideration in determining how best to approach the issue. One model divides the intensity of conflict into five levels. 14 Level 1 is differences. Those are situations in which two or more people have different perspectives on the situation; they understand the other person's viewpoint and are comfortable with the difference. This level of conflict can be an asset for a team or organization because it allows individuals to compare or analyze without an emotional overlay. Level 2 are misunderstandings in which two people understand the situation differently. Misunderstandings are common and can be minor, but can also escalate when stakes are high. If there are negative consequences such as missed events or obligations people tend fault and accuse one another which adds negative emotions to the situation. If the misunderstandings are frequent, it may indicate problems with communication. Level 3 is disagreements; these are times when people have different viewpoints of the situation, and despite understanding the other's position they are uncomfortable with the difference. This level can also easily escalate if ignored. Level 4 is discord. In those instances, conflict results in relationship issues between the people involved even after a specific conflict is resolved. There is often constant tension between those individuals. Level 5 is polarization, which describes situations with intense negative feelings and behavior in which there is little to no hope of resolution. For those conflicts, the mandatory first step is the agreement to communicate.

Another aspect of preparation is to recognize your emotional response and how it might affect your view of the situation. Addressing a difficult situation when one is angry or frustrated is more likely to be ineffective than when one is calm. Several famous quotes illustrate the point.

“Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.”

–Ambrose Bierce

It is therefore important to postpone the discussion until one is able to think more calmly and clearly. It is helpful to have an awareness of behaviors that “push your buttons.” One list of possibilities comes from an assessment instrument, “Conflict Dynamic Profile (Center for Conflict Dynamics Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, FL)” that includes the following behaviors: abrasive, aloof, hostile, micromanaging, over analytical, self-centered, unappreciative, unreliable, and untrustworthy. 22 A technique to reduce tension is cognitive reappraisal or reframing which refers to looking at alternative perspectives and outcomes of the situation to “reframe” it in a different, generally positive, light. Some other suggested techniques to manage one's emotions are consciously identifying and addressing one's fears about the outcome of the conflict or possible consequences. Centering techniques, which are based on martial arts, offer a way to calm oneself and focus on the positive aspects of the situation. 14

“The great remedy for anger is delay”

–Thomas Paine

All conflict management research confirms that setting a safe environment is a critical element in successful management of conflict. In a safe environment, all participants believe they will be respected and treated fairly. The authors of Trust and Betrayal in the Workplace present a model that includes three different types of necessary trust. 23 One is contractual trust or trust of character which is confidence in the intentions of others. The second is communication trust or trust of disclosures. In an environment with communication trust, everyone is comfortable that people will share information, be honest, and keep private information confidential. The final type is capability trust; when present, the participants have confidence in others' abilities to deliver on promises. That model recognizes that trust can be harmed by betrayal, but also rebuilt.

Another description of a safe environment is one with mutual respect and mutual purpose. 16 Mutual respect involves using a tone of voice and words and facial expressions that convey respect for others as human beings. Mutual purpose is having the common goal of problem solving. Although the first model may seem difficult to achieve in all situations, mutual respect and mutual purpose are basic required elements for an effective discussion of a conflict.

How does one establish a safe environment? The conversation must be held in a private, preferably neutral, setting with enough protected time for the discussion. Some experts suggest that a potentially neutral way to establish the goal of joint problem solving is to start the discussion by describing the gap between the expected and observed behavior. Other options include asking for permission to discuss a topic or beginning with the facts from your perspective or your observations. It sets the wrong tone to start the conversation with your conclusion, particularly if it is harsh. One should share all appropriate and relevant information and avoid being vague. 16 Other tips to maintain a safe environment include asking open-ended questions, focusing initially on points of agreement and using “I” statements. Some examples of “I” statements are “I feel frustrated” and “I am concerned.” One must be aware of one's body language as well as tone and volume of voice.

Common mistakes to avoid are trying to soften the message by mixing it with complimentary statements or using an overly familiar tone of voice initially before addressing the problem. Most people feel they are being manipulated or treated dishonestly when the messages are mixed. Inappropriate humor or comments disrupt the rapport needed for a safe environment. Another common error is using nonverbal hints or subtle comments with the belief they can successfully address a conflict. This technique is risky because one is never clear on the other person's interpretations of the hints or comments. It also does not work to blame someone else for a decision or request you are making. It ultimately undermines any respect or authority you may hold. Asking people to guess the reason for the meeting, essentially to read your mind, is irritating and ineffective at problem solving.

Once a decision has been made and a neutral environment decided upon for the conversation, there are key elements to conducting the conversation. One organization (CMP Resolutions) terms this first phase as scoping. 24 It includes the time to understand what is happening, each person's perspective of the conflict, and what is important to them, as well as establishing ways the involved parties can work toward a solution. The first step in the conversation is to allow all parties to state their opinions and their perspectives on the conflict. Before beginning, the ground rules regarding confidentiality and decision making should be outlined. Listening, respectively, to each participant during this step is very important. Asking clarifying questions without imposing one's own view of the situation is a skill that often requires practice. One must be aware of the tone and volume of voice to ensure that the environment remains respectful. Expressions of empathy such as “that sounds really difficult” are helpful in setting the tone and encouragement of information sharing. One should avoid judgmental or blaming statements. Listening skills are one of the primary skills to be developed when working on one's ability to manage conflict. Utilizing “AMPP” helps to remember four main listening skills that are helpful when faced with a problem. 16 “A” stands for ask which starts the conversation and allows the other person to discuss their feelings about the situation. Mirroring (M) is a tool to encourage the speaker to continue or offer more information when they seem reluctant. The technique involves statements about what you are observing (e.g., you seem down today) in the other person and then asking a question. The third technique, paraphrasing (P), is the restating of their responses in your own words which shows active listening and makes clear whether you both have the same understanding. Finally, prime (P) refers to priming the pump. It is useful when someone is clearly emotional about the issue but reluctant to talk despite the use of the first three techniques. With this method, one makes a guess out loud about what the other person might be thinking or feeling. One must choose the words carefully and use a calm tone to avoid worsening the situation. The goal is to make the other person feel comfortable speaking. Other potentially helpful acronyms to use during conflict management are seen in Table 1 .

The next part of the conversation is defining the problem. A consensus on the definition of the problem is necessary for participants to be able to compare and discuss solutions. As noted earlier, the problem might be defined as the issue with one occurrence, a pattern of episodes or the working relationship. After creating a mutually agreed upon definition, the next step is to brainstorm possible solutions to the conflict. If possible, these solutions should address the needs of all parties involved.

After a list has been created of alternative solutions, each participant should discuss their preferred solution. There also needs to be a “reality check” with the decision makers. Perhaps the ideal solution is too expensive or not feasible because of existing regulation or organizational policies. The goal is finding commonality and acceptable compromises that allow for all participants to feel like their needs are met and the conflict is being addressed. Once this solution is chosen, an action plan that outlines the “who, what, and when” of fixing the problem needs to be devised. Making sure that everyone involved understands their role and tasks are an important step to accomplish the solution.

Many models suggest that reflection on ways to prevent or more effectively handle similar conflicts in the future at the end of the conversation is beneficial. A follow-up plan is critical. If a plan with timelines is not designed and implemented, the behavior will typically change for a period of time but then slip back into old patterns. Whether the plan is another meeting, completion of certain tasks, or a system of monitoring, it should be defined clearly.

A particularly complex issue in conflict management is the disruptive physician. Historically, that issue has been addressed reluctantly if at all. The physician is often a high revenue producer and organizational leaders fear the consequences of antagonizing the physician or there is concern about a potential conflict of interest. The term is defined in various ways. One definition of disruptive physician behavior is “a practice pattern of personality traits that interferes with the physicians' effective clinical performance.” 25 The Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons defined it as “inappropriate conduct whether in words or action that interferes with or has the potential to interfere with, quality health care delivery.” 26 An occasional bad day or overreaction does not constitute disruptive behavior. Rather it is the pattern of repeated episodes of significant inappropriate behavior.

The typical behaviors are often divided into aggressive and passive aggressive categories. Aggressive behaviors include yelling, abusive language, intimidation, and physically aggressive actions. Passive-aggressive behaviors include intentional miscommunication, impatience with questions, racial, general or religious jokes, and implied threats. Despite estimates that only 3 to 6% of physicians qualify as disruptive physicians, 27 the negative impact on the health care system is significant. The behavior undermines morale and productivity as well as the quality of care and patient safety. For example, nurses are less likely to call physicians with a history of disruptive behavior even when they need to clarify an order or report a change in a patient's condition. According to the Joint Commission, these behaviors “can foster medical errors, contribute to poor patient satisfaction and to preventable adverse outcomes, increase the cost of care, and cause qualified clinicians, administrators, and managers to seek new positions in more professional environments.” 28 In an academic environment, this behavior is associated with poor role modeling for students and trainees. Because of the impact, both the Joint Commission and the Federation of State Medical Boards addressed the issue in their standards and policies. 28 29

If the pattern of behavior is recognized early, a conversation with a trusted colleague or physician leader using the techniques described above might be sufficient to change the pattern of behavior. One model of corrective feedback starts by preparing the physician for the meeting with advanced notice and provision of a private setting and respectful atmosphere. Often asking the physician to provide a self-assessment of their interactions with others is a good starting point that can be followed with the observations of specific disruptive behaviors. Strategies for change and improvement as well as set expectations and a monitoring program need to be discussed and articulated before concluding the meeting. 30

There is evidence that an organization that sets standards for behavior and uses the principles of “action learning” to address variances will have desirable outcomes with disruptive physicians. Briefly, the principles of action learning, which was developed by Reginald Revans, are that the best learning occurs through active questioning and reflection rather than instruction. 31 The people involved tackle a real-life problem by asking questions, discussing alternative solutions, reflecting on change, and monitoring progress. In an interview study of independent, single-specialty surgical practices representing 350 physicians, the investigator determined whether the use of action learning principles correlated with desirable outcomes with disruptive physicians. 32 Desirable outcomes include retention of the physician with a change in the troublesome behavior. In 20 practices, action learning resulted in successful management of the problem.

However, most disruptive physicians require more intensive intervention. Reynolds argues that “constructive change in disruptive physicians comes through requiring adherence to expected behaviors while providing educational and other supports to teach the physician new coping skills for achieving the desired behaviors.” 25 A comprehensive evaluation including medical, chemical, and psychiatric evaluation is the first step. It is important to identify an underlying treatable condition. A program of remediation including educational and psychological training to foster new coping skills is outlined. A critical part of the program is long-term follow-through and monitoring. For most disruptive physicians, it is the threat of imposed consequences rather than internal motivation to improve that guides their compliance with the program. 25 Several well-established programs offer resources for the training including the Physician Assessment and Clinical Education (PACE) program at the University of California School of Medicine, San Diego 33 and the Distressed Physician Program at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville. 34 A composite case study of transformative learning to address disruptive physician behavior illustrates the process used. 35

Conflict occurs frequently and often results in significant disruption and cost for individuals and organizations. Although often avoided or poorly managed, evidence suggests the skills for effective management of conflict can be learned. Multiple studies confirm when conflict is successfully addressed, and multiple benefits accrue to the organization and individuals.


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How to Manage Workplace Conflict

Handling team conflict effectively.

By the Mind Tools Content Team

conflict resolution and styles in problem solving

Your people bring different perspectives and knowledge to your team, improving problem solving and performance. But difference can sometimes lead to conflict. And you'll need to deal with it!

In this article, we'll look at ways to identify and resolve conflict in your team, and to keep working relationships healthy and productive.

First, we'll highlight a few general skills and approaches that a manager can call on in conflict situations. Then we'll look at a five-step process for applying those skills in practice.

(If you want to understand why conflict arises and how to resolve it, read our introductory article, Conflict Resolution .)

Conflict Resolution Skills for Managers

By using the following approach, managers will likely be able to stop conflict before it gets out of hand.

Be Proactive

Leaving someone out of an email chain, making an inappropriate remark, or speaking over people in a meeting... conflict often starts with small disagreements that escalate fast.

So, if you spot conflict, avoid leaving it to team members or HR to resolve – instead, act! This shows that you treat conflict seriously and won't condone potentially destructive behavior.

Signs of conflict can be subtle, but you can detect them by being aware of the interactions within your team. Conflict might be reflected in individuals' body language, facial expressions, or tone of voice.

The better you know your team members, the more easily you'll pick up on cues and spot tensions that may be lurking under the surface. As well as the details of the conflict, keep in mind that you may need to consider if competing values are contributing to the tension.

Develop your emotional intelligence to better identify and manage the emotions of your team members.

​ Be Fair and Impartial

Even if you agree with one or more individuals in a conflicting team, make sure that you remain objective. Your role is to address the issue cauding the conflict and to reach a solution that works for all parties.

Treat each person fairly. Give everyone the time and opportunity to present their own perspective and to respond to any criticism. It's vital that all parties can state their case and are listened to.

Step in When Needed

Don't allow individuals to hijack the conversation or to dominate more-reserved colleagues. If one person is constantly talking over others, keep your questions directed at the person being interrupted.

If people still attempt to interrupt, politely ask them to wait until their co-worker has finished before inviting their point of view.

Avoid Assumptions

When facilitating a conflict discussion, avoid stating as facts things that you only think you know or may have heard. For example, it's best to use phrases like, "As far as I'm aware," or, "As I understand it."

This also allows for the possibility that your understanding is wrong or incomplete. And it creates an opportunity for the conflicting parties to restate their cases and clarify misunderstandings.

It's important to be patient and to perservere. Read our article The Role of the Facilitator for more ways to move talks forward.

Managing Conflict in the Workplace in Five Steps

When a situation gets out of hand, you may need to step in as a direct facilitator, with a targeted approach to resolving team conflict.

You can follow these five steps, which we've adapted from a framework used by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). [1]

1. Speak to Team Members Individually

Start by having an informal one-on-one with each team member involved in the conflict. This way you can hear people's concerns in a safe, confidential setting. In these meetings:

  • Avoid making assumptions and let people open up in their own time.
  • Reassure them that the discussion is confidential.
  • Ask each party the same questions, to remain impartial.

2. Bring People Together

Once you've got a better understanding of the conflict and everyone's perspectives, it's time to bring the relevant parties together and act as a moderator.

Set some ground rules before getting the conversation underway. Encourage team members to listen to one another, respect each other's points of view, and not interrupt or make personal comments. During the conversation:

  • Keep the tone of the conversation calm and non-threatening.
  • Encourage active listening , so people understand where the other person is coming from.
  • Encourage individuals to share ideas. What do they want or need? What would they be prepared to commit to? Have them to brainstorm some solutions.
  • Ask them about situations where they've worked well together in the past. See if they can build on those positive experiences.

If the discussion becomes heated, take a break and reconvene when everyone's had a chance to calm down. Be alert for any passive-aggressive behavior .

Read our article Managing Emotion in Your Team for more tips on handling heated conversations.

3. Ask the Wider Team for Ideas

When a conflict affects the whole team, provided it's not sensitive or confidential, you can ask for everyone's perspective.

Talking things out helps you and your team to consider different assumptions, beliefs, and decision-making approaches. This can also be a part of creating a " psychologically safe " environment, where people feel comfortable sharing ideas and concerns, thus preventing future conflicts.

4. Draw up a Plan

Ask the parties to detail agreed-on actions for reconciliation. And get each to commit to this strategy. You can draw up a timetable for actions, ticking them off as and when they are achieved. Hold all relevant parties accountable.

5. Follow up

Ensure that issues have been resolved properly by following up on the situation. For example, people may still feel irritated but not want to drag things out. You can use one-on-ones to prevent old disagreements from resurfacing. And try an anonymous team survey to get feedback and uncover any lingering frustrations.

Discover more ways to manage disputes in our article, Resolving Workplace Conflict Through Mediation .

Seek Guidance and Support

When you're faced with a challenging conflict in your team and are unsure how to handle it, seek support from a trusted colleague, your line manager, or your HR department.

If your efforts at conflict resolution don't work, you'll need to be willing to pursue formal procedures if necessary. And some situations, such as harassment, discrimination or bullying , require a formal disciplinary process to be followed. In these instances, or if you are in any doubt, liaise with your HR team for advice.

Reflect on Your Conflict Management Skills

Consider what you did well and where you could improve after handling a conflict situation in your team. Solicit feedback from the team members involved to find out how effective they felt you were at helping resolve the situation.

Now think about structural or procedural improvements you can make to prevent future conflict. These could be:

  • Setting clear goals for every team member – when people experience the right amount of pressure , they perform well.
  • Make sure that people's responsibilities match their skills . Offer learning and development opportunities to plug skills gaps and help your people to realize their career aspirations .
  • Using regular one-on-ones to sound out potential sources of future conflict.

As the CIPD concludes, the key to resolving conflict is to, "Build an environment in your team that is open, respectful, kind, fair and consistent, in which people feel 'psychologically safe.'"

Team conflict is natural. But by practicing the conflict management skills we outline here, you'll be able to spot and deal with issues between team members before they escalate.

To avoid team conflict:

  • Be proactive.
  • Be impartial.
  • Step in when needed.
  • Avoid assumptions.
  • Be patient.

If team conflict persists, address it by implementing these five steps:

  • Speak to team members individually.
  • Bring people together.
  • Ask the wider team for ideas.
  • Draw up a plan.

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Mediation and the Conflict Resolution Process

Depending on the context of a dispute, mediation may be a more appropriate way to resolve conflict.

By PON Staff — on September 21st, 2023 / Conflict Resolution

conflict resolution and styles in problem solving

It’s often the case that when two people or organizations try to resolve a dispute by determining who is right, they get stuck. That’s why so many disputes end up in court. There is a better way to resolve your dispute: mediation by hiring an expert mediator who focuses not on rights but on interests—the needs, desires, or concerns that underlie each side’s positions. If someone asks you why a dispute is important to you, your answer will reveal your interests.

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The Conflict Resolution Process : Resolving Workplace Disputes

As a simple illustration, imagine that two administrative assistants with adjoining desks disagree about whether the window behind them should be open or closed. One claims that she has the right to decide because she has seniority, while the other insists he should get his way because he conceded to the senior colleague in a disagreement about lighting. The office manager asks both to explain their preferences. The senior employee says that the draft from the open window gives her a stiff neck.

Her colleague says that without fresh air, he gets sleepy. Suddenly, an agreement is easy: the office manager opens a window in the adjoining storeroom, and the two assistants have fresh air with no draft. Acting as an interest-based mediator, the office manager probed for the interests underlying the assistants’ positions. When the positions of disputing parties cannot be reconciled, a focus on interests often will lead to a mutually satisfactory outcome.

But can a focus on interests be applied to complex business disputes? (See also, Negotiation Research on Mediation Techniques: Focus on Interests ).

In fact, a mediator who initially knows little or nothing about the underlying technical issues often can resolve the most complex disputes. (See also,  Integrative Negotiation Examples and Noncompete Agreements: Negotiating Skills and Negotiation Techniques for Conflict Resolution ).

In the first place, a good interest-based mediator will be a fast learner, capable of quickly picking up the technical knowledge necessary to discuss the problem. More important, an interest-based mediator doesn’t need to fully understand the technical aspects of a problem to assess why the dispute is important to each party and which solutions each party might accept. By beginning with this knowledge and eventually exchanging settlement proposals, the interest-based mediator can help parties resolve the most complex technical problems.

Leave a comment: When do YOU use mediation vs. arbitration?

Related Conflict Resolution Article:    Top 10 Conflict Resolution Articles

Adapted from “Beyond Blame: Choosing a Mediator,” by Stephen B. Goldberg (professor, Northwestern University), first published in the Negotiation newsletter, January 2006.

Originally published November 2011.

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What Your Conflict Resolution Style Says About You and Is It Healthy?

Better conflict resolution skills can improve your relationships

Rachael is a New York-based writer and freelance writer for Verywell Mind, where she leverages her decades of personal experience with and research on mental illness—particularly ADHD and depression—to help readers better understand how their mind works and how to manage their mental health.

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Dr. Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and a professor at Yeshiva University’s clinical psychology doctoral program.

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The Five Conflict Resolution Styles

Common types of conflict in relationships, how to determine your conflict resolution style, how to improve your conflict resolution skills, can a relationship work if you have different conflict resolution styles.

The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI), one of the most widely-used models of conflict management, identifies five conflict resolution styles: competing, avoiding, collaborating, accommodating, and compromising.

While each style can be appropriate to different situations, a collaborating style is generally the healthiest for relationships because it emphasizes a team-oriented approach to finding a solution that satisfies both partners. By the same token, a competing style often puts excess strain on a relationship because it pits one partner against the other with the assumption that only one can win.

Research suggests that conflict resolution style has an even bigger impact on the strength and longevity of a relationship than the kind of conflicts or frequency of conflict. In other words, how you fight matters more than how often you fight or what you fight about.

Read on to learn more about each conflict resolution style, how to figure out your style, how that can impact your relationships, and how to develop a healthier conflict resolution style.

The five conflict resolution styles described by the TKI are positioned along a spectrum of cooperativeness and assertiveness .

Cooperativeness refers to the extent to which a person tries to understand and satisfy their partner’s concerns. Assertiveness, meanwhile, refers to the extent to which a person seeks to satisfy their own concerns.

A style leaning too far to either extreme can be unhealthy. For example, people who are too assertive and make no effort at all to satisfy their partner’s concerns can end up making that partner feel uncared for and, ultimately, unfulfilled in the relationship. But people who are too cooperative and refuse to assert themselves at all can end up creating a similar relationship dynamic, where one partner always gets their needs met and the other never does.

  • Competing : This style approaches the conflict as if it’s a battle of wills where one person will win and one will lose. It’s less about solving the problem and more about figuring out which person gets to have their way this time. Eventually, this can erode the very foundation of the relationship as partners increasingly view each other as competitors battling for control over the relationship.
  • Avoiding : This style tries to pretend the conflict doesn’t exist. Avoidance is usually done out of fear that the conflict could hurt or even end the relationship. But it’s not a long-term solution because you can’t solve a problem if you refuse to confront it. This, too, can erode the relationship as the unresolved problem puts strain on it and becomes harder to ignore.
  • Collaborating : A collaborating couple treats conflicts as an “us versus the problem” situation. Rather than competing against each other, they work as a team to figure out a solution to the problem where both partners win. It leads to the best outcomes, but it also takes the most energy, patience, and empathy , especially when the problem doesn’t have an obvious win-win solution.
  • Accommodating : One partner chooses to neglect their own needs or concerns for the sake of keeping the peace. For relatively small issues, like where to go for dinner, that might be fine. But for bigger issues, it’s not a long-term solution because it only “solves” the problem for the partner whose needs were accommodated. The one doing the accommodating will still feel like the issue isn’t resolved.
  • Compromising : A compromise is a middle ground between two opposing sides. It still positions the partners as competitors, but instead of fighting for victory, they negotiate a solution that’s acceptable to both. Rather than win-win, it’s more often a draw where each side is left only partially satisfied. For tricky issues where there just isn’t a win-win, compromise is a good alternative. But when couples rely too much on compromise, both partners can end up feeling like they’re sacrificing too much for the sake of the relationship.

Conflict is normal in every relationship. The more two people try to build a life together, the more they will confront differences in views and expectations as they navigate the logistics of combining finances, sharing responsibilities, and agreeing on what they want for their future together.

  • Financial disagreements . Couples can often get into disagreements about how to balance saving for the future with paying for the lifestyle they want right now. Others will disagree about how to share financial responsibilities.
  • Parenting disagreements . Differing views on discipline, nutrition, education, and division of parenting labor can all be tough conflicts to navigate.
  • Division of household labor . People might have different standards of cleanliness that are hard to combine. In other cases, one person might end up carrying more weight than the other.
  • Intimacy . This refers to sex as well as other kinds of emotional and physical intimacy like cuddling, spending quality time together, and expressing your love and appreciation for each other. While it’s natural for intimacy to fluctuate over the course of a relationship, conflict can arise when one or both of you start to feel less loved than they used to at other points in the relationship.

Facing conflict in a relationship is not a sign of failure, but how you navigate that conflict can have serious consequences for the health of your relationship.

To figure out which style you tend to use in conflicts, it helps to see each one in a real-world context.

How People With Varying Conflict Resolutions May Respond to Conflict

Consider this real-world scenario to figure out your conflict resolution style.

Picture a couple with a teenage daughter. While she used to get a good mix of As and Bs on her report cards in the past, it’s shifted to a mix of mostly Cs with a few Bs now that she’s in high school.

The first parent wants to discipline the daughter when she comes with her latest report card of mostly Cs. The lower grades are going to make it hard to get into a decent college and have a bright future. The second parent thinks discipline is uncalled for. Cs are still passing grades. As long as she’s passing her classes, she should be given some room to live her own life.

Now, put yourself in this situation and consider how you would respond. After, you've decided how you think you might respond, read ahead to see which style best matches your response.

  • A competing parent would continue to rehash their own point of view, either refuting or dismissing any counterpoints or concerns brought up by the other parent. They’ll continue arguing until one gives in or they both get exhausted and temporarily drop the issue without resolving it.
  • An avoiding parent would ignore the topic altogether. The second parent might hide the report card, for example, hoping the first parent doesn’t find it so they don’t have to confront the issue.
  • An accommodating parent would just let the other one do what they think is best. The first parent might just drop the issue as soon as they encountered any pushback from their partner.
  • A compromising parent would try to find a middle ground. Perhaps they settle on not punishing her this time, but sitting her down for a serious discussion and a warning that she will be punished if her future report cards don’t improve.
  • A collaborating parent would look for a solution that addressed the concerns of both parents. That might look like sitting their daughter down to ask her about school and her plans for the future. The parents can uncover any struggles she might be dealing with that are causing the declining grades or else work with her to figure out what she wants for her future and what kind of grades she’ll need to achieve that. That way, the first parent can leave satisfied that they’re helping their daughter achieve the goals she has for herself while the second parent is satisfied that they’re not placing undue pressure on her.

Conflicts are difficult by definition, so don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t great at resolving them.

Conflict Resolution Tips

Follow these tips to improve your conflict resolution skills:

  • Forgive each other and start with a fresh slate . If your conflict resolution styles were unhealthy in the past, it’s easy to go into future conflicts expecting the same unhealthy dynamic to emerge. That expectation can become a self-fulfilling prophecy if you lean on old defensive habits that trigger your partner to fall back into their own old habits. So you both need to agree to forgive the past hurt and be patient and forgiving with each other as you work on developing a healthier conflict resolution style.
  • Listen and repeat . Don’t interrupt each other when you’re talking. In addition to letting the other person finish speaking, start your response by recapping what they said to confirm that you understood them.
  • Hold back judgment . If you feel the other person’s concerns are overblown or unimportant, keep it to yourself. Both of you need to be able to talk openly about your thoughts and feelings without worrying that they’ll just be dismissed.
  • Treat it like a brainstorming session, not an argument . Each of you will throw out solutions that the other person doesn’t like. Instead of judging it, focus on addressing the elements of the plan that don’t work and suggesting alternatives.
  • Brainstorm with empathy. Instead of focusing only on your needs, focus on ways to incorporate your partner’s concerns into the solution you’re proposing. Even if those concerns aren’t as important to you, you can still look for ways to tweak your original idea to address them. Your partner should do the same.

You don’t need to have matching styles to maintain a healthy relationship. However, it’s still important to find balance in how you resolve conflicts. If one partner has a competing style while the other has an accommodating style, for example, it’s easy for the relationship to become extremely one-sided, with the competing partner often getting their way.

It's important to find balance in how you resolve conflicts.

If you feel like you and your partner struggle to really resolve conflicts or it’s become one-sided , couples therapy can help you develop a better approach.

How a Couples Therapist Can Help

Therapists that specialize in couples counseling can be great at diagnosing where the miscommunication is happening and helping a couple practice healthier conflict resolution strategies.

Frequently Asked Questions

In general, it should be collaborative. A healthy relationship is one that fulfills both partners, which means both partners need to find the balance between asserting their own needs and meeting the needs of their partner.

If the problem will impact the relationship or either person’s future happiness, then yes. When you confront a major conflict, you either need to find a way forward that satisfies both of you or acknowledge that this might be a sign of incompatibility.

If you don’t have much practice with healthy conflict resolution, it can be hard to tell the difference between fundamental incompatibility and just lacking the skills to find a good resolution.

A couple’s therapist can help you navigate this situation and help both of you develop healthier conflict-resolution styles. 

Smaller conflicts about general annoyances and pet peeves, however, do not always need to be discussed. But if something bothers you or hurts your feelings, it's certainly worth bringing up.

Mossanen M, Johnston SS, Green J, Joyner BD. A practical approach to conflict management for program directors . Journal of Graduate Medical Education. 2014;6(2):345-346. Doi:10.4300/JGME-D-14-00175.1

Noller P, Feeney JA. Communication in early marriage: responses to conflict, nonverbal accuracy, and conversational patterns . In: Bradbury TN, ed. The Developmental Course of Marital Dysfunction. 1st ed. Cambridge University Press; 1998:11-43. Doi:10.1017/CBO9780511527814.003

By Rachael Green Rachael is a New York-based writer and freelance writer for Verywell Mind, where she leverages her decades of personal experience with and research on mental illness—particularly ADHD and depression—to help readers better understand how their mind works and how to manage their mental health.

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Conflict Resolution, problem solving, and mediation

  • Introduction

Four Strategies to manage conflict

  • Conflict resolution outcomes

Benefits from conflict management and problem solving

Conflict resolution and problem solving terms, characteristics of a conflict resolution and problem solving environment.

  • General suggestions
  • Six step conflict resolution procedure for problem solving

Other Conflict resolution, mediation, or problem solving heuristics

  • Strategies to overcome impasse

Arbitration and Mediation

Mediated conflict resolution, zero tolerance as a way to reduce conflict.

  • Violence program summaries

Sometimes we assume all conflicts are destructive, have no value and we try to suppress, avoid, and deny their existence. Conflicts occur all the time: who to sit by at lunch, when to get on task, when to play, when to talk, when to be quiet, when to listen, what game to play at recess, and who is going to do what.

We should recognize conflicts as inevitable, healthy and valuable; not as problems but as opportunities to discover new solutions as we learn to manage conflict constructively.

Conflicts happen when incompatible solutions are sought. Since long-term relationships are important, people and groups must manage conflicts and maintain positive relationships.

This page reviews four strategies to manage conflict and possible outcomes or resolutions. Benefits for conflict management to solve problems and characteristics for a problem solving environment to resolve conflicts. Six step procedure for resolving problems and general suggestions for its implementation and some strategies to remove impasses and assist a resolution. Finally, notes on zero tolerance and violence programs are included.

Problem-Solving Negotiation : Seek solutions to ensure all parties achieve their goals and resolve any tensions or negative feelings between them. See six step conflict resolution procedure .

1. Smoothing : party gives up its goal to maintain the relationship at the highest possible level. Saying I'm sorry doesn't mean I'm wrong. It let's the other person know you are sorry about the situation when the goal is less important than the relationship.

2. Forcing a Win-Lose Negotiation : A party seeks to achieve its goal by forcing or persuading the other party to yield their goal. Strategies include threats, imposing penalties, preemptive actions to resolve without others knowledge or permission, persuasive arguments, impose a deadline, commit yourself to an unalterable position, and make demands that far exceed what is actually acceptable. The last strategy begins with an extreme opening position, and follows with a slow rate of compromise in an attempt to force the other party to concede. This strategy can be supplemented with persuasive arguments, threats, and attacks aimed at overpowering, overwhelming, or intimidating others. The purpose is to achieve the goal without concern for the needs or feelings of the other. The harder a party is pushed to give in, the harder the other person will push back. The more you force, the more the other resists and the angrier the other person becomes. When forcing is successful, winning may result in a sense of pride and achievement. When unsuccessful, it may result in depression, guilt, shame, and failure. It causes a high price of alienation and starts a spiral of win-lose tactics. Use when the goal is highly important and the relationship is not.

3. Compromise : Each person or group alters their goal toward the others goal. Methods to help people compromise are to split the difference, meet in the middle, flip a coin, or let chance decide. Use when the goal and the relationship are moderately important and you and the other person cannot seem to get what each want. Each gives up part of a goal and sacrifices part of the relationship to reach an agreement. Compromise when time is short, Sometimes half a loaf is better than none. Use when the goal is not important and you do not need to keep a relationship with the other person.

4. Withdraw : Leave, give up, submit, avoid the issue and the person.

Conflict becomes destructive when it's denied, suppressed, or avoided resulting in anger, fights, physical dominance, harassment, verbal attack, physical abuse, giving in, or cold shoulders. These actions do not resolve conflicts for benefit to all participants and instead result in alienating people.

Conflict Resolution Outcomes

  • Creatively solve problems
  • Learn what makes them angry
  • Understand what frightens them
  • Gain maturity
  • Become energized
  • Stimulated to enjoy solving a problem or competing
  • Increase motivation to learn
  • Arouse intellectual curiosity
  • Deepen relationships
  • Strengthen their convictions
  • Improve interpersonal relationships
  • Improve negotiating skills
  • Improve self-confidence and self-efficacy
  • Improve achievement
  • Improve reasoning
  • Are better able to deal with stress
  • Help understand what is important to them
  • Become less egocentric
  • Can gain and hold attention of others
  • Improve the quality of their decisions
  • Create joint identity and cohesiveness
  • A risk free environment with open honest communication, no physical violence against self or another person, no public humiliation and shaming, and no lying or deceit.
  • Participants motivated to succeed by self-regulation, external rewards, or punishment.
  • A cooperative context with all participants committed to achieve mutual goals or outcomes beneficial to all involved.
  • Frequent, complete, and truthful communication. All must accurately understand the different positions and motivations (wants, needs, or requests).
  • Positive interdependence so all participants desire to search for a successful solution to accommodate all legitimate interests.

General suggestions for creating a positive problem solving environment

  • Stay calm. This can be hard, but someone needs to be in control, keep the situation from escalating, and focus on achieving a solution.
  • Face the issue . Do not withdraw from or ignore a conflict. If you do, in addition to damaging the relationship, you will keep emotional energy tied up in anger, fear, resentment, hostility, dislike, sulkiness, uncooperativeness, sarcasm, or talking behind the other person's back and new conflicts will be linked with the old to create further costs.
  • Be honest . Generally the stronger the relationship, the more direct and open the discussion can be.
  • Focus on the problem not the person . Keep the discussion free of personal criticism, recriminations, abusive language, and especially subtle jibes that inflict pain. Make it clear that disagreement is with the ideas and actions and not a value of the person. Separate the criticism of actions and ideas from the idea that the rejection is a statement of value of a person. Keep a sense of humor. Keep all weapons out of reach. No one hurts another. Protect each other's ego. Provide acceptable reasons for people to switch viewpoints.
  • Start with empathy and validation . Consider what is happening within each person's brain. Stress, trauma, living situations, social situations, ... Try to move things from the primative brain, amygdala, ... and engage the frontal lobe to allow for rational choices to be possible.
  • Remember their behavior is likely more related to stress than lack of trust in you.
  • Think of it as an opportunity to break bad habits, reestablish norms, and teach.
  • Regularly use over communication . It can eliminate misunderstandings.
  • Remember, there is no magic solution. Change is hard because you know what you stand to lose, but not what you stand to gain.!
  • Collaborate with appropriate specialists, family members, teachers, support staff, and other community members.
  • Use Humor that is not sarcasatic or at the expense of another person.

Six Step Conflict Resolution for Problem Solving

1. describe the problem :.

Describe what each person wants, acknowledge and explain how their desires are part of a joint problem. Frame the problem as small, specific, and solveable.

  • Describe each person's wants, needs, or goals using words such as I, me, my, or mine.
  • Acknowledged that what each person desires is part of the problem.
  • Explain how each person's desires blocks what each wants.
  • Describe the behaviors. Do not judge, evaluate, or make inferences about people's motives, personality, or attitude.
  • Focus on a long-term cooperative relationship.
  • Use paraphrasing to determine what each understands, cares about, and if they are taking each other seriously.

The conflict is described as a joint problem. Drivers converging on a four way stop; can be seen mutual as:

  • A competition of chicken and therefore, loose-loose, if no one chickens out they all die in a headon crash;
  • Win-loose, if one runs the stop sign and the others chicken out; or
  • Win-win if each yields the right of way through a process of taking turns.

Define the conflict as a joint problem that is small, specific and solveable .

Example: Kickball game with an equal number of players on each team. I want to play and they won't let me.

  • Making it large and general: If you don't let me play, you are no longer my friend.
  • Keeping it small and specific: If they let me play, the teams will be uneven.

Both of these statements acknowledge and explain a joint problem: not getting to play and loosing friendship and getting to play and having uneven teams.

2. Describe how each person feels .

Name the feelings (I feel ...). Use sensory descriptions I feel stepped on. I feel like I'm on cloud nine. I feel like I've been run over by a truck. Report what kinds of action the feeling urges you to do. I feel like hugging, slapping, walking on ... Use figures of speech. I feel like road kill... Avoid labels, commands, questions, accusations, sarcasm, approval, disapproval, and name-calling.

3. Exchange reasons of positions .

Express cooperative intentions. Present your reasons and listen to the other person's reasons:

  • May I ask why?
  • Can you be more specific?
  • What do you mean when you say ...?
  • I'm not sure I understand.

Tone of voice is as important as the words. Focuses on wants and interests, not positions I won't do this homework.. . Focuses on why rather than the object or issue. Two students, who each want an object, are opposed as long as their interests are having the object. If you ask why? And if there are different interests, then the conflict can be resolved . Clarify the differences between one person's interests and the other person's interests. You will need to work at it as people are often not willing to express their desires because of fears and vulnerability.

Conflicts can not be resolved until all parties know what they are disagreeing about. When that is know, then empower each person to think of different possible solutions. There may be a better option than either can think of separately.

4. Understand each other's perspective .

Each must be able to take the other person's perspective and understand how it looks to that person. People have different perspectives that have developed from different life experiences. People tend to see only what they want to see and focus on facts that confirm to their beliefs and perceptions and disregard or misinterpret those that call their perceptions or belief into question.

Thus, they only see the merits of their case and the faults of the other side. If a person has been lifting 100 lb. of cement all day a 40 pound sack is light. On the other hand if they've been pushing a pencil all day, then a 40 pound sack is heavy. When you are hungry you notice food, when you are not you do not.

Therefore, you must not only logically understand the other person's view, but you must empathize with their point of view and feel the emotional force the other person believes in it. You may see a glass with a delicious drink. Another person may see a dripping glass that is going to ruin the wood of the expensive table. Change a person's perspective and you will change the way they seek to solve the conflict.

A perception check is the best way to see if each is understanding the other person's perceptions. Describe what each thinks the other person's feelings are. Ask if perceptions are accurate. Refrain from expressing approval or disapproval of the feelings. You look sad. Are you? Use paraphrase, Role play, or role reversal.

5. Invent options for mutual benefit .

Be open-minded don't judge prematurely. Look for multiple or complex solutions and not single answers. Look for more resources. Do not assume a fixed pie. You have a friend who does not want to go to a certain movie, but does want to go to a certain restaurant. By expanding the evening to include dinner and a movie the chances are better to agree, than just deciding on a movie. Focus on the future or long term rather than the immediate needs and goals. Explore the unknown and avoid the same decisions as in the past.

6. Reach a wise agreement .

Such agreements reach the legitimate needs of all participants and can be viewed fair to all. Describe what each person will do differently, might include communicating who does what, when, where, and how.

Realistically ask each to agree and share in that agreement. Review how the agreement can be reviewed and renegotiated if need be. Base the agreement on coin flip, third party, taking turns, sharing, equal use, arbitrator, scientific method, and community values.

Reasons for saying no to a suggested agreement:

Source: David W. Johnson and Roger T. Johnson (1995) Reducing School Violence Through Conflict Resolution ASCD

  • Problem Solving Rug
  • Conflict and me worksheet
  • Peace making formula
  • Four W's and an H
  • Problem solving heuristic - variable solutions and consequences
  • Problem solving - mediation

Teachers should weave conflict resolution procedures and skills into the fabric of school life. Examples include: follow-up lessons on improving communication skills, ways to control anger, appropriate assertiveness, problem solving skills, perspective-taking, creative thinking, intrapersonal, and interpersonal skills. Integration into subjects like social studies and literature by analyzing the people or characters, their actions or inactions, world events or plots of the stories with respect to conflict and their resolution.

Conflict management training should be repeated yearly for 13 years, with an increasing level of complexity and sophistication.

Strategies to Overcome Impasse


  • Tell the story of the conflict situation using a 'once upon a time' format.
  • When the story reaches the point of conflict, stop and ask for suggestions on how to resolve it.
  • Incorporate one of the suggestions in the story and conclude the story.
  • Ask the disputants if this suggestion would meet their needs and if it is a solution they might try it now or the next time they have a problem.

Problem Puppets

  • Use puppets to reenact the conflict.
  • Freeze the puppet role-play at a critical point in the conflict. Ask for suggestions. Incorporate one suggestion, and finish the play.
  • Repeat several different suggestions. Discuss whether each one will work to help children learn to think through the consequences of their suggestions.
  • Ask the children to pick the suggestion they think will work best.
  • Students set up an imaginary situation in which they act and react on assumptions and beliefs they select or are given for the characters they play.
  • Describe a conflict situation: give time, place, background and any other information to help students with the role. To help students get into their roles introduce them and the situation with descriptive and emotional words and voice fluctuations.
  • Act out the conflict and keep it short.
  • Freeze the role-play at critical points in the conflict. Ask for suggestions about what can be done next. Incorporate one suggestion into the situation and finish the role-play.
  • How could the conflict have been prevented?
  • How did the character feel in the situation?
  • Was it a satisfactory solution?
  • What other solutions might have worked?

Arbitration is a step of last resort. Arbitration tends to result in solutions that are less stable and less effective than those derived by problem solving. Anticipating that the arbitrator will split the difference, disputants may adopt a tough and extreme position, so a half-way position is more favorable to them.

Combining mediation and arbitration has two disadvantages . Participants believe they are being forced to reach agreement under mediation because arbitration will result, if they do not agree. The mediator may also become too forceful during the mediation session and shift prematurely to arbitration.

Arbitration Steps

  • Both persons agree to abide by the arbitrator's decision.
  • Both persons submit their desired goal to the arbitrator. Each party describes what he or she wants and would like to see happen.
  • Each person defines the problem and tells their side of the conflict.
  • Each person presents his or her case, no interruptions are allowed.
  • Each person has an opportunity to refute the other's contentions.

Teachers' primary responsibilities for successful arbitration

  • Building a cooperative context.
  • Teaching all students how to negotiate.
  • Teaching all students how to mediate.
  • Knowing how to mediate if peer mediation fails.
  • Knowing how to arbitrate if peer and teacher mediation fails.
  • Implementing the peer mediation process.
  • Structuring academic controversies so that students challenge each other's reasoning.

Arbitrator makes the decision. Winning or losing is assumed to be secondary to having had a fair opportunity to be heard.

Final offer arbitration

An alternative to conventional arbitration is final offer arbitration. Each disputant submits to the arbitrator his or her best, most conciliatory offer and the arbitrator makes a decision.

Mediator's steps:

  • End hostilities and cool off.
  • Ensure all people are committed to the mediation process.
  • Help each negotiate successful with each other ( six steps for resolving conflict ).
  • Formalize an agreement.
  • End Hostility and Cool off suggestions

Stop fights

Adults should always break up fights. Two adults should work together. Order students to stop and restrain them. Never restrain one student without restraining the other. Use restraint only in an emergency. Such action could cause the parties to turn on the teacher.

  • Train observers to leave and not to be spectators or
  • surround the dispute and chant stop fighting, or
  • singing a happy song: Row, Row, Row, Your Boat, or
  • distract and divert their attention, physical, and emotional energy. Hey whose $10?
  • Breaking eye contact between disputants will often stop a fight.

Cool off hostile individuals

  • Individuals can move to cool-off corners.
  • Use deep breathing and muscle relaxation. Take in a deep breath while counting to 10 and then back to 1, or
  • Tense all muscles and breath in, while muscles are tense hold breath for five seconds, slowly exhale and relax muscles for five seconds.
  • Imagine the anger leaking out your toes as you relax or imagine it drains away through the feet and walk away from it.
  • Engage in physical activity like jogging.

Reflect on a conflict, define it, and think of alternative ways to resolve it.

Move to a mediation area.

  • Select a neutral area.
  • The mediator may sit at one end of a table and disputants sit across from one another.
  • Put paper and a pencil on the table for each person.

Mediation Process Suggestions

  • Introduce your self and confirm the names of the disputants.
  • Introduce the purpose of the mediation process. Explain that you will not take sides or attempt to decide who is right or wrong.
  • Confirm if they are committed to succeed.
  • Go over the rules and elicit a promise to abide.

Rules for Mediating

  • Agree to solve the problem.
  • Use only the person's chosen name.
  • One person talks at a time.
  • Agree to abide by the agreement.
  • Everything that is said is confidential except for information on drugs, weapons, and alcohol
  • Ask for questions
  • Gather Information
  • Find the facts.
  • Analyze what everyone says to see if agreement is possible.
  • Enforce the rules (no interruptions, insults, or shouting).
  • Be patient.
  • Respect both students.
  • Ask all parties their wants
  • Ask how the other's actions interfere with their wants.
  • Ask how they felt.
  • Ask for three ways to resolve the conflict and reestablish a good relationship.
  • Ask for three ideas to try if it happens again.
  • Ask each if they have anything to say to the other party.
  • Assist Negotiations if disputants need help.

Summarize what happened and what they want.

  • Summarize how they feel.
  • Ask for their confirmation of your summary.
  • Ask them for reasons for their wants and feelings.
  • Ask for their understanding of the other's perspective, wants, feelings and rationale.
  • Ask for other optional agreements that maximize joint outcomes.

Try to have them select one option and reach an agreement.

The following ideas might help to recognize a need for agreement:.

  • Review or identify their common interests and the importance of maintaining a constructive long-term relationship.
  • Discuss how the future of the relationship is more important than any short-term advantage from winning.
  • Suggest the need for each other to reach an agreement.
  • Suggest that if the relationship is damaged, they will have future difficulties that will be worse than not getting what we want today.
  • Describe common interests to bring parties together and describe opposing interests as a mutual problem to be solved.

Other Hints

  • Encourage ownership of their feelings.
  • Use "I" messages.
  • Name the feeling or use sensory descriptions.
  • Avoid pressure to take sides.
  • Reduce emotional charges and language. Rather than saying "She is angry because you stole her purse," say, "She is angry because you had her purse." Rather than saying, "The two of you were yelling at each other about the $15," the mediator can say, "You talk to each other in loud ways when the topic of money comes up."
  • Paraphrase.
  • Restate the facts and summarize the events.
  • Reflect feelings.
  • Remain neutral.
  • Refuse to give advice or suggestions.
  • Avoid bringing up feelings and problems from you own experience.
  • Look for the positive.
  • Explore the multiple meanings of any one behavior.
  • "Think of situations in which that same behavior would be positive."
  • Increase motivation by highlighting the gains for resolution and the costs for no resolution.

Try for a particular agreement.

If disputants are not able to agree on what happened have them agree that they are in crisis.

  • See if they agree on how they will relate in the future. Future-oriented agreements will not force anyone to admit wrongdoing.
  • Try for a package deal and tradeoffs.
  • See if they will agree to a principle. I.e. students may not agree on whether one should replace a lost book but they may agree to the principle that it is wrong to solve problems by fighting.
  • Compromises are unstable because neither disputant gets all of what he or she wants and the relationship is not fully repaired.
  • Understanding is like peeling an onion. One layer reveals another layer underneath.
  • Equalizing power. It is hard for a low-power person to negotiate with a high-power person and vice versa. Help the less articulate person state his or her wants, feelings, and reasons to equalize power.

Teaching Students to be Peacemakers Program

Once students learn how to negotiate and mediate, the teacher may want to implement the Teaching Students to be Peacemakers Program. Each day, the teacher selects two class members to serve as official mediators by randomly assigning pairs. When all students have enough experience they may mediate individually. Mediators wear official T-shirts, hats, or armbands. Refresher lessons are conducted twice a week.

Teachers should weave conflict resolution procedures and skills into the fabric of school life. Examples include: follow-up lessons on improving communication skills, ways to control anger, appropriate assertiveness, problem solving skills, perspective-taking, creative thinking, intra personal, and interpersonal skills. Integration into subjects like social studies and literature by analyzing the people or characters, their actions or inactions, and world events or plot of the story with respect to conflict resolution.

Conflict management training should be repeated yearly for 12 years, with an increasing level of complexity and sophistication.

Adapted from David W. Johnson and Roger T. Johnson (1995) Reducing School Violence Through Conflict Resolution ASCD

References for Conflict Resolution Programs

  • Evidence of success for Out of School Programs
  • Teaching Students to be Peacemakers. Johnson and Johnson 1970-1994.
  • Children's Creative Response to Conflict (CCRC) Priscilla Prutzman.
  • Resolving Conflict Creatively by Educators for Social Responsibility (ESR)
  • Community Boards of San Francisco Conflict Managers Program . Ray Shonholtz response to Jimmy Carter's call for Neighborhood Justice Centers.

"Zero Tolerance" Trouble in New York - June 7, 2010 - Newsweek

WHEN CONGRESS passed a national school-violence policy in 1994, many states followed with even stricter measures. But those laws, it now seems, are based on a faulty premise: that courts are the best place for disciplining children.

The failure of this idea is clear in New York, where zero-tolerance policies have lead to arrests for gun possession on school grounds, but also for relatively minor offenses like shoving. Even nonviolent incidents—doodling, throwing food, back-talking—have landed kids in court, where last year New York sent more than 1 4OO minors (average age: less than l6) to correctional facilities.

According to a series of recent reports—by the Justice Department and the state Office of Children and Family Services—the institutions don't help. Nearly nine of 10 occupants commit additional crimes. It's a "school-to-prison pipeline," says Judith S. Kaye, the state's former chief judge.

She hopes the negative publicity will provide a push toward alternative modes of justice (like youth courts, where peers hear the cases of peers), more civics classes (where kids learn the virtues of sociability), and level headed adjudication—where detention doesn't always involve a cell. — T.D.

Violence Programs Summary

Violence programs have two major elements:.

  • Reactive violence prevention and
  • Proactive violence prevention

Source David W. Johnson and Roger T. Johnson (1995 ) Reducing School Violence Through Conflict Resolution ASCD

Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes homeofbob.com & thehob.net

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The art of leadership and management 

A group of business people meeting in board room.

Spend a few minutes browsing job advertisements, and you’ll likely notice that two skills appear frequently in the lists of required skills: leadership and managemen t. These abilities are in high demand across careers and industries. In 2023, management was the number one skill desired by employers, and leadership was number four, according to the LinkedIn 2023 Most In-Demand Skills list. 1  

Management and leadership skills are related but distinct from one another. Both deal with human relations and developing the skills and success of a team. However, managers oversee workflows, improve efficiency and ensure their teams meet deadlines. A leader can enact change in organizations and help employees improve their performance. 2 This article explores leadership strategies and management skills, such as effective communication and strategic planning, that are crucial to your career development.  

Principles of visionary leadership 

Visionary leaders inspire employees to embrace their organization’s central mission and work toward shared goals. They also empower workers to make decisions and engage in professional development. 3 Below are some key principles of visionary leadership.  

Effective communication

Visionary leadership emphasizes the need for strong communication skills to share expectations and plans for the future among teams. Effective communication strategies include: 4

  • Establishing clear and attainable objectives
  • Using vivid metaphors to convey complicated ideas
  • Explaining how each employee can contribute to the organization’s success 

Decision-making and problem-solving 

Successful leaders solve complex problems and make strategic decisions. They often consult diverse stakeholders and their teams for insights and advice. Additionally, visionary leaders use creative problem-solving and effective communication to create innovative solutions that may require new attitudes or behaviors. 5  

Team building and motivation 

Leaders build collaborations and encourage their teams to perform their best. Here are some strategies for team building and motivation : 6  

  • Foster an inclusive and welcoming work environment
  • Develop a shared definition of success 
  • Organize activities to help team members understand one another’s communication styles 

The role of management 

Like leaders, managers play a pivotal role in their organization’s operations. Managers typically take on responsibilities in these key areas: 7  

  • Planning: Setting goals and developing plans of action to accomplish these objectives
  • Organizing:  Designing, filling and structuring roles within the organization to achieve goals and objectives 
  • Leading: Delegating tasks, motivating teams and coordinating all collective efforts 
  • Controlling: Overseeing and measuring progress, adjusting plans as needed to overcome unexpected challenges, using innovation to improve processes 

Leadership styles

Determining your leadership style can help you recognize your strengths. Common leadership styles include: 8  

  • Autocratic:  These leaders make decisions independently without considering feedback from others 
  • Democratic:  These professionals value input from all team members during the decision-making process 
  • Laissez-Faire:  They delegate tasks and give minimal direction to their teams 
  • Servant:  These leaders focus on mentoring their employees, listening to their needs and helping them achieve personal growth 
  • Transformational:  They bring passion and energy to the workplace and increase their employees’ motivation 

Effective team leadership 

Business professionals use numerous interpersonal behavior theories and strategies to lead teams effectively. Sometimes the difference between good managers and great ones are those who have the ability to help team members develop their own strengths while still leading teams to success.

Team performance 

Leaders develop high-performance teams by implementing strategies that promote collaboration and growth, such as: 9 

  • Hosting weekly team meetings
  • Creating a mentoring program 
  • Organizing regular social activities, such as happy hours and trivia games 
  • Conducting frequent performance evaluations

Empower employees to reach their full potential by delegating tasks using effective communication. Leaders delegate successfully by clearly defining duties and ensuring employees have the necessary resources to complete them. They also build trust by letting their employees choose how they accomplish tasks. 10  

Conflict resolution

Conflict is inevitable in collaboration, especially when teams involve people with different backgrounds and communication styles. This is why conflict resolution skills are integral to any successful manager's career. 

Leaders can mediate conflicts by establishing clear rules for communication and encouraging active listening. They can also ask team members to propose solutions to their conflicts and work with them to find the right path forward. 11  

Strategic planning and effective management 

Managers use strategic planning to make decisions that help an organization achieve its goals. This approach involves: 12  

  • Setting objectives that align with the company’s present and future goals
  • Considering how the outcomes of decisions may affect the organization as a system 
  • Establishing metrics and using data to evaluate performance 
  • Continuously seeking improvement 

Leading innovation and change 

Leaders and managers play an essential role in driving change and innovation in organizations. Change management includes several basic steps: 13  

  • Recognize processes or policies that must change
  • Create a plan to enact change 
  • Get employee buy-in to implement the plan 
  • Evaluate the results 

Business professionals also navigate uncertainty by planning for the worst-case scenario and adapting plans as necessary. 13  

Leadership ethics and corporate social responsibility 

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) refers to making decisions about personal and social change that benefit employees, stakeholders, society and the environment. Leaders use CSR to balance organizational goals with societal impact and stay accountable for their decisions. 14

A leader could use many approaches to promote CSR. For example, you could: 

  • Implement employee education programs 
  • Organize community events 
  • Prioritize sustainability 
  • Make decisions that benefit customers over profit  

Leading with business ethics has many benefits. Employees often feel safer when working with leaders who embrace CSR, which enhances their creativity and encourages risk-taking. They also perceive an ethical leader as more authentic and reliable, leading to a more positive workplace environment. 14   

Developing leadership principles and management skills 

Strengthening your leadership and management capabilities can help you advance your career and work effectively with teams. 

Many people enhance these abilities by participating in formal training programs. For example, you can pursue a graduate degree in management or organizational leadership. Additionally, many professional associations offer certificates and workshops on leadership and management. 

Coaching and mentoring programs can also help you become a more effective leader and manager. Use your alumni network and online resources like LinkedIn and Meetup to seek experienced mentors. It’s also helpful to set goals with your mentor so they can provide specific guidance for your professional journey. 15 

Set yourself apart as a visionary leader and manager 

Prepare to become a transformative leader and manager of change in fast-paced business environments.  Marquette University ’s  online Master in Management is an online learning program that provides career guidance from seasoned business leaders. The Marquette Business Career Center also offers career counseling, interview practice sessions and other types of support to promote your professional success.

Our humanitarian-centered curriculum helps you build a critical understanding of what it means to be an innovative and successful leader. You’ll learn the latest approaches to leadership and effective communication as you take courses like Character-Driven Leadership, Leading People and Change, and Leadership Coaching and Development.

Don’t wait to get started. Make an appointment with an  admissions outreach advisor today to learn more about how the program builds competency for leadership and effective management. 

  • Retrieved on October 9, 2023, from linkedin.com/business/learning/blog/top-skills-and-courses/most-in-demand-skills
  • Retrieved on October 9, 2023, from forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2023/07/03/manager-versus-leader-whats-the-difference/
  • Retrieved on October 9, 2023, from ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9343966/
  • Retrieved on October 9, 2023, from linkedin.com/pulse/leading-way-why-visionary-leadership-matters-martin-wroe/
  • Retrieved on October 9, 2023, from forbes.com/sites/kathymillerperkins/2023/07/24/how-to-thrive-in-complexity-three-steps-toward-adaptive-leadership/
  • Retrieved on October 9, 2023, from forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2023/03/02/15-key-steps-leaders-can-take-to-ensure-the-success-of-team-building-activities/
  • Retrieved on October 9, 2023, from saylordotorg.github.io/text_principles-of-management-v1.1/s05-04-planning-organizing-leading-an.html
  • Retrieved on October 9, 2023, from nsls.org/understanding-different-leadership-styles
  • Retrieved on October 9, 2023, from shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/organizational-and-employee-development/pages/creating-and-sustaining-high-performing-teams-in-a-remote-work-environment.aspx
  • Retrieved on October 9, 2023, from us.aicpa.org/interestareas/youngcpanetwork/resources/leadership/managementbydelegationlearntoletgo
  • Retrieved on October 9, 2023, from ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470432/
  • Retrieved on October 9, 2023, from forbes.com/sites/forbeshumanresourcescouncil/2022/06/28/14-hr-pros-share-their-top-strategic-management-planning-tips/
  • Retrieved on October 9, 2023, from shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/spring2021/pages/managing-change.aspx
  • Retrieved on October 9, 2023, from ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7998312/
  • Retrieved on October 9, 2023, from leaders.com/articles/executives/mentor/

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